Go Read: How FAFSA Got Caught Sending Personal Information to Facebook

If you applied for funding through Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the US in early 2022, chances are that personal information was provided to a platform completely irrelevant to the process: Facebook.

This report from the layout revealed that as early as January 2022, the US Department of Education sent data from website visitors to Facebook, possibly including information submitted on forms such as first and last name, country, phone number and email address, via the “Meta Pixel” tracking pixel — even if the person did not have a Facebook account. the layout also notes that this data collection started “even before the user logged into studentaid.gov.”

When asked about this tracking, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education initially denied that it took place, despite the layout finding code that clearly states otherwise. Richard Cordray, COO of federal student aid, told the publication that the data collection was “part of a March 22 ad campaign” that “accidentally” sent the personal data to Facebook. The data sharing feature was subsequently disabled. Cordray also said the data was “automatically anonymized and neither FSA nor Facebook used it for any purpose,” without explaining how to verify that.

the layout notes that it is not known how much student data has been received. But while these students didn’t voluntarily agree to Facebook’s privacy policy (namely because FAFSA didn’t tell them they were being tracked), the publication says the policy allows the company to keep such data for years.

Read the full report for full details and to get a better idea of ​​just how pervasive Facebook’s web-based tracking capabilities (aka the “Meta Pixel”) really are.

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