'Top universities have secretly hired investigators to snoop on millions of former students, the Daily Mail can reveal.
In an aggressive drive for donations, they have paid wealth screening firms – including one called Prospecting for Gold – to trawl for information about their alumni's worth.
This has included sensitive details about their incomes, investments, pensions, value of their homes and even friendship circles.
A number of victims, targeted for two decades, have been ranked according to wealth, class and whether they are likely to leave money to the universities in their wills.
Some of the 24 institutions – all members of the elite Russell Group – are very likely to have broken the law if they wealth-screened supporters without their consent, or without them reasonably expecting that this would happen.
While some of the universities admit they have not explicitly sought permission, they justify themselves by saying relevant details are provided online.
Charities that used a similar operation were fined last year because they had not asked for donors' permission.
Last year, universities brought in more than £1billion in new donations, with more than 80 per cent going to the Russell Group, including Oxford and Cambridge.'
Read more: Millions spied on by greedy top universities: Institutions secretly hire investigators to snoop on ex-student's salaries, pensions and even friends in drive for donations
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