High school seniors who tap the government's online student aid application to find relief for soaring college tuitions should approach with caution. The private information disclosed on such forms—including social security number, financial status, and legal history—is shared with agencies outside the U.S. Department of Education (ED), including the Justice Department, the Pentagon, and even private companies such as debt collectors.

A report released Oct. 30 by congressional investigators found that government agencies frequently share information gleaned from various federal applications—sometimes without the applicant's knowledge of where it might go....

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