Personal data of people who never even applied to Auburn University was also exposed in breach

The Auburn University breach involving the exposure of information just got worse, in my opinion.

Erin Edgemon reports that some of the people who had their data exposed not only never attended Auburn, but never even applied there. Not surprisingly, they would like to know how Auburn got personal information about them that wound up exposed. But Auburn reportedly is not telling them what types of information they held about them and is not telling them how they got their information.

“We have informed callers of the ways their information may have been included in our system, including information received from testing organizations,” Clardy said. “Like most universities, we obtain information from the ACT and SAT organizations for recruitment purposes so we can send information to admissions prospects.  This is separate from the records we also receive from the SAT and ACT as a part of admissions applications.”

Medlin said she doesn’t understand how the university received her personal information. The College Board and ACT “absolutely denied” sending her information to Auburn, she said.


I have repeatedly urged Congress to take action about the education sector. Many post-secondary schools are retaining data – including SSN – way past its needed or usefulness time. In this case, if individuals never even applied to Auburn, why did Auburn retain their information?

A breached entity should be required to disclose to consumers what information it held about them that got caught up in a breach. If they don’t want to answer that question hundreds of thousands or millions of times or can’t answer it, then maybe they shouldn’t be retaining so much information.

Of course, where’s the real incentive for them to improve security and data retention when no federal agency will take them out to the wood shed for a breach? The U.S. Education Department has never cut off federal funds to an education institution over a data security breach and the FTC doesn’t have authority to enforce data security unless the Safeguards Rule is involved (which it wouldn’t be in this case).  And even when the Safeguards Rule is involved, we haven’t seen the FTC engage in any enforcement in the education sector.

So c’mon, Congress. Do something useful for a change.

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