E-number spreadsheet with Eastern Illinois University student data leaked

Chacour Koop reports:

The grade point averages of 430 students were released to 65 students about two and a half weeks ago, which is a violation of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Robert Miller, Eastern’s general counsel, has refused to comment on the violations. Sue Harvey, Eastern’s registrar and FERPA officer, has not responded to multiple emails about the violations.

The spreadsheet was accidentally leaked and also included the E-number of each of the 430 students. Eastern designates E-numbers as public directory information, unless students file a petition with the university registrar.


OK, while I give the student publication credit for trying to cover a privacy/data security breach,  the real headline should be that students generally have no real recourse when there’s been an unintentional release of their education records. FERPA does not provide for an individual cause of action, the U.S. Department of Education does not require it be notified of breaches, and this is all going nowhere.  Even taking a worst case scenario: someone is horribly embarrassed by their grades and a recipient of the spreadsheet anonymously uploads it all to the Internet, there is generally no recourse for students who feel they have been harmed by a breach.  The university would have an obligation to try to mitigate harm, but other than asking recipients to securely delete the attachment and following up on that, what does the university really have to do?

In this case, the University should tell the students what it intends to do to prevent a future recurrence of this type of e-mail breach. But other than that, what do you think they have to do or should do?

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