Brit uni blabs students' confidential information to 298 undergrads

Spreadsheet of extenuating circumstances attached to email

The University of East Anglia has sent almost 300 undergraduates an email detailing other students' extenuating circumstances.

The information was in an Excel spreadsheet attached to an email that ended up being sent to every undergraduates enrolled at the American Studies school through an email-all address.

It included 42 American Studies undergraduates' names and the reasons for the extenuating circumstances, which is confidential and likely to involve their personal and mental health.

Immediately after the breach, which was revealed by student news title The Tab, the university sent a second email to the recipients. It said: "Dear All, you may have erroneously received an email with a spreadsheet attachment. Could you please delete this without opening/reading. Thank-you very much."

The university's vice-chancellor, David Richardson, said in a statement that the email had been sent to 298 undergraduates on the morning of 16 June. "This clearly should not have happened and we apologise unreservedly for the distress it has caused," he said.

"We immediately launched a full and urgent enquiry into how this happened and are contacting all affected students to apologise and offer support. Due to the gravity of the incident, we are notifying the Information Commissioner's Office."

He added that the university had made sure student-facing staff were available to advise students affected, but the breach was condemned by welfare community and diversity officer Jo Swo.

"Students will be rightly furious that something like this could happen – and given the nature of the personal detail revealed in the email we would advise any student affected to contact both the Student Support Service and the SU for support," she told The Tab.

"Given the university is supposed to be making mental health a priority, this is a real slap in the face to students who have sought support."

An ICO spokesperson said: “We have been made aware of an incident concerning the University of East Anglia and are making enquiries.” ®

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019