Recently, officials at the Baylor School of Law made a blunder that got a lot of people talking and made many more concerned about the safety of their personal information.
On April 3, an email was sent to students accepted to the Baylor School of Law in fall to inform them of a payment deadline extension. The email, however, contained an attachment with a spreadsheet listing the personal information including ethnicity, names, LSAT scores, GPAs, degrees, phone numbers and addresses.
The email was sent at 12:39 p.m., followed by a recall message at 1:10, and an apology was sent to the students 7:32 p.m. by the university after it had been alerted of the situation. The apology email asked students to “treat the document as confidential, just as you would as a lawyer, and delete the information.” It also expressed the university’s “deepest apologies” and told students the university had “taken steps to ensure that such a mistake is not made in the future.”
While the incident was an accident, the university could have easily avoided the whole mishap. The attachment slipped past the eyes of staff members that should have checked the email before sending it. Furthermore, files with sensitive information should be encrypted to keep unauthorized people from viewing the data.
At least one law student was concerned about the negative attention brought to Baylor as a result of the mistake. “As a current law student, my career prospects hinge on the good name and reputation attached to the words ‘Baylor Law School’ on my résumé, and the value of those words just took a punch to the gut,” the student told the Lariat in an email.
Despite Baylor’s sincere apology to the students, the email reflects poorly on Baylor and its staff. It is good they are taking measures to prevent things like this from happening again, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Releasing this spreadsheet tells prospective students that Baylor is sloppy with students’ personal information. Even worse is the fact that it took the university nearly seven hours to be made aware of the mistake and respond to students.
Even though the university said it appears the information has not been used for illicit purposes, the leak poses a hazard to students’ privacy.
All university departments and schools, not just the law school, need to make sure they are taking precautions to keep students’ information safe from unwanted eyes and accidents. With the resources Baylor has, this hopefully never happens again.