Big data, redux

We’ve repeatedly called on the University to be more transparent. Its disclosure of students’ social security numbers was not what we had in mind, the Cavalier Daily reports. The 18,700 or so students who recently received Aetna Health Insurance mailers with their social security numbers stamped on the envelopes’ fronts will likely agree. Between last summer’s opacity and this summer’s recklessness, it might take until summer 2014 for our school to strike a sane middle ground when it comes to what information it shares and what information it protects. This month’s mailing error was not the first time the University has failed to exercise due diligence to protect vulnerable data. Last June, officials accidentally posted more than 300 transcripts, some containing social security numbers, on a University website. And in 2006 a computer programming error caused a spreadsheet listing the social security numbers of 632 students to land in other students’ email inboxes. Given the importance of respecting sensitive information in a so-called “digital age,” one would expect an institution as large and as eminent as the University to have protocols in place to ensure private data stays private.

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