Student data exposed in U. Pittsburgh email attachment

Students who received the personal data were asked to delete it and empty the trash can folder in their email client.
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In an email notifying students at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health of balances due, an administrator accidentally attached a spreadsheet with financial data not intended for the recipients, a university spokesperson told Edscoop Monday.

The Excel spreadsheet sent to seven students on Sep. 24 contained data regarding student tuition information of 38 students, including the seven recipients.

“No banking or Social Security information was included,” Allison Hydzik, a university spokesperson, said in an email.

Students who received the accidental attachment were instructed to delete the email from user accounts and devices, as well as empty email trash, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette initially reported. Any further use or distribution of the information contained on the spreadsheet was said to be prohibited by the university.


“The University of Pittsburgh takes the privacy of student information very seriously,” Hydzik said.

The administrator admitted to making a mistake and has since apologized, Hydzik added.

“Pitt Public Health administrators are reportedly working with affected students to connect them with university resources and services to accommodate their needs,” she said.

This is not the first time that the faculty of a university has mistakenly exposed student data through a rogue email attachment. In March, applicants to the University of Chicago Law School had their personal information exposed when a faculty member accidentally sent a mass email with a spreadsheet of academic data accidentally attached.  According to Verizon’s 2019 data breach report, human error accounted for 35 percent of data breaches in the education sector over the last year.

Betsy Foresman

Written by Betsy Foresman

Betsy Foresman was an education reporter for EdScoop from 2018 through early 2021, where she wrote about the virtues and challenges of innovative technology solutions used in higher education and K-12 spaces. Foresman also covered local government IT for StateScoop, on occasion. Foresman graduated from Texas Christian University in 2018 — go Frogs! — with a BA in journalism and psychology. During her senior year, she worked as an intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and moved back to the capital after completing her degree because, like Shrek, she feels most at home in the swamp. Foresman previously worked at Scoop News Group as an editorial fellow.

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