According to a bombshell report from The Markup this week, if you applied for student loans through Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) this year, your personal data may have been sent to Facebook without you knowing it.
The Markup first discovered the problem by examining the code embedded in the FAFSA website. When students filled out the form, their data was automatically collected and sent to Facebook, including their first and last names, email addresses, and zip codes. The U.S. Department of Education at first denied the issue even existed, then confessed that the data collection was “part of an ad campaign.”
“This inadvertently caused some StudentAid.gov user information that falls outside of FSA’s normal collection efforts, such as a user’s first and last name, to be tracked,” Federal Student Aid chief operating officer Richard Cordray told The Markup in a statement.
The data “was automatically anonymized and neither FSA nor Facebook used any of it for any purpose,” Cordray continued. “The pixel functionality in question was deactivated soon after the campaign ended as part of FSA’s typical campaign maintenance.”
Even when Facebook isn’t necessarily at fault, it still can’t help but hoover up as much of our data as possible. Thankfully this report caused the Department of Education to stop this practice, but who knows how many other sites are providing Facebook with our information without our knowledge?
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