Arizona Department of Education redaction failure exposed 7,000 parents’ scholarship accounts

From the Goldwater Institute:

January 28 — The Goldwater Institute was shocked to learn yesterday of a massive breach of privacy by the Arizona Department of Education, which released private personal information relating to almost 7,000 parents who participate in the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program. The data breach is just the latest in a series of episodes revealing massive mismanagement by the state’s educational bureaucracy.

The revelation Monday in the Yellow Sheet Report that the Department provided a spreadsheet that included the account balances of every ESA account in the state, along with the names, email addresses, and other personal information of the almost 7,000 parents with ESA accounts, came as a shock, said Matt Beienburg, the Goldwater Institute’s Director of Education Policy. “This is private information that the Department has a legal and ethical obligation to keep private,” said Beienburg. “Instead, it not only divulged that information, but put it directly in the hands of anti-school choice groups dedicated to undermining the ESA program and the families participating in it.”

Read more on the GoldwaterInstitute.org.

On January 30, McKenzie Sadeghi of the Tucson Sentinel reported that the state education department had confirmed the breach, which reportedly was due to failure to redact properly when a spreadsheet was sent in response to a public records request.

But Rosenblatt said in an interview Tuesday with KJZZ that when an editor at The Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication, pasted the redacted document into a new spreadsheet “every single thing that was redacted revealed itself.”

The Yellow Sheet said the Education Department likely “blackened the background in columns containing the names and email address of nearly 7,000 parents with ESA accounts, but didn’t re-scan the document to ensure the words didn’t show through.”

The insufficiently redacted spreadsheet included parents’ names and emails and the grade level of students, along with an acronym that appeared to identify the type of disability of special-needs students.

Read more on Tucson Sentinel.

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