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Burr, Foxx Demand Accountability from Department of Education on Facebook Student Data Privacy Leak

Members: “The importance of protecting students’ information cannot be understated.”

Today, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), and Representative Virginia Foxx (NC-05), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, sent a letter to Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona demanding accountability on the recently reported privacy violations of prospective college students across the country.

On April 28, 2022, it was reported the Department of Education used Facebook’s “Meta Pixel” analytical code to collect data from individuals, including names, phone numbers, email addresses, and zip codes, from individuals applying for the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) and later sharing that information with Facebook. In their letter, Senator Burr and Representative Foxx criticized the Administration for their unwillingness to be transparent on its failures to protect student data privacy.

“Once again, the Biden administration is attempting to evade Congressional oversight while it willfully violates the privacy of millions of students around the country,” the members write.

“The importance of protecting student’s information cannot be understated. To ensure student data privacy, our offices requested a briefing with the Department to better understand the extent of the information given to Facebook and what was being done to remedy the situation. That request has been denied. It wasn’t until the story was published by The Markup that the code was turned off and Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer, Richard Cordray, stated that this information was ‘inadvertently’ shared after FSA engaged in an advertising campaign.  However, the article notes that the existence of the Pixel code predates that advertising campaign, thereby leading us to believe your staff is either obfuscating the truth or completely disregarding its responsibility to protect personal information.”

“It is essential that you cooperate with Congressional oversight on this issue,” the members concluded. “The Department’s continued failure to be transparent harms FAFSA applicants and their trust in our institutions. It also harms Congress’ ability to trust you and your agency.”

To read the full letter, click here.