University applications body UCAS has been accused of using “underhand tactics” to gather and sell the personal details of more than a million young people and their parents to advertisers.
Last year the organisation pulled in over £12m for selling subscriber data on those as young as 16 to mobile phone and drinks companies, including Red Bull, Vodafone, O2 and Microsoft.
The service, which controls admissions to UK universities and attracts 700,000 new applicants each year, sells the information through its commercial arm, UCAS Media.
Applicants can opt-out of receiving direct marketing from “carefully selected third parties”, but this could mean they miss out on course information and potential career opportunities.
Emma Carr, deputy director of the privacy lobby group Big Brother Watch, told The Guardian: “UCAS is perfectly within the law to sell on this information, but the way they are doing so, as is the situation with most data gathering organisations, is underhand. It goes far beyond what students would expect them to do with their data.”
A UCAS spokeswoman said: “We comply strictly with all applicable laws and regulations, in the way in which we handle personal data. UCAS Media has strict guidelines for the different groups that we may cover, based on the age sensitivities of our audiences. For example, UCAS Media does not accept political, alcohol or tobacco related products for marketing.”
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