A website managed by Federal Student Aid (FSA) where students go to fill out their FAFSA was found to contain code that unbeknownst to students and parents shared their personal information with Facebook, according to a new article from The Markup.
“The Markup found that code embedded in the website where students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, was automatically sending the data to Facebook,” the article says. “The data was being collected even if the visitor to the site did not have a Facebook account and began even before the user logged in to studentaid.gov, the site that hosts the form.”
FSA Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray told The Markup that FSA had changed its tracking settings “as part of a March 22 advertising campaign,” which resulted in some applicant information to be tracked. Cordray added that the data was anonymized and was not used by FSA or by Facebook “for any purpose.”
Some of the shared data included information like a user’s first name, last name, country, phone number, and email address, and may have been shared as early as January 2022.
The full scope of the data collection is still being determined. The Markup said they have not found evidence that everything a student typed into the FAFSA — such as financial information — was being collected, but noted that the code “was configured to collect identifying information such as the student’s name, email address, phone number, and zip code, data that could be used for targeting ads on Facebook.”
NASFAA has reached out to FSA to better understand the extent of the issue.
Read the full report from The Markup.
Publication Date: 4/29/2022