Your "Confidential" Info Is NOT Confidential At All

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“Do NOT let your children answer any questions on the PSAT or SAT other than five obligatory questions: name, grade level, sex, date of birth, and student ID number.”


This is what Cheri Kiesecker, after looking through her child’s PSAT assessments, said to all other parents.




Scandal of the College Board


Cheri was surprised to learn that the PSAT 8/9 answer sheet begins by asking many very personal questions of each student. Plus, nowhere on the form or booklet does it say these questions are optional.


The paper states in very fine print that the answers may be used for research purposes and may be shared with the student’s high school, school district and state.



Except for the student’s name, grade level, sex, date of birth, student ID number or social security number, the paper also asks about the race/ethnic group, military relation, home address, email address, mobile phone, GPA, courses taken, and parents’ highest level of education.


By searching on the College Board website, Kiesecker also found that the questions are also asked of students right before they take the exam, as part of the Student Data Questionnaire.


Although the College Board claimed that these questions were optional, few parents or students were aware of this when asked. At the moment the questions are answered, the personal information of the students and their families is breached.



The College Board sells licenses to access the data through a tagging service called College Board Search. The price for the student data tagging service is $0.42 cents per student. Considering the large number of students taking PSAT and/or SAT each year, it’s not difficult to imagine how much money the College Board has earned from it each year.


According to the tax form of College Board, the total business income of College Board in 2017 was 100 million USD, much more than the 63 million USD in 2010.


And the info can be sold to more than one organization for more than once.




How about scandals in medical fields?


After reading the report, I checked news about personal info breach in hospitals and clinics, the two most frequently visited medical places for ordinary people.


Just in October 2019, a local hospital system notifies more than 68,000 patients of a data breach in which their personal information may have been exposed;


In a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC), hospital data breaches accounted for approximately 30 percent of large data security incidents reported to OCR from 2009 to 2016;


In 2012, a hospital employee was caught selling patients’ protected health information to supplement her salary.



Although I didn’t find news about hospital selling patients’ personal information, it’s clear that our information is never secure as we might have imagined. Your insurance company, for example, can not only get your bill, but have the right to look through your chart and any other charts in any other doctor’s office, any time.


If you ask me, what I can say is that fortunately, situation in medical fields are not as serious as that in educational fields. Still, laws are needed to protect our personal information, or maybe we are just naked in front of those orgs with access to large databases.

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These messages are for mutual support and information sharing only. Always consult your doctor before trying anything you read here.