Archive for Wednesday, September 19, 2007

KU investigating release of private information

September 19, 2007


In a meeting with Journal-World reporters and editors, Kansas University spokesman Todd Cohen, surveys a stack of documents sent to the Journal-World and other newspapers Wednesday at the News Center, 645 N.H.

In a meeting with Journal-World reporters and editors, Kansas University spokesman Todd Cohen, surveys a stack of documents sent to the Journal-World and other newspapers Wednesday at the News Center, 645 N.H.

A number of documents containing Kansas University student, faculty and staff personal information were sent Tuesday to the Lawrence Journal-World.

The information was accompanied by an anonymous letter, which said that the documents were recovered from the recycling and trash in the Mathematics Department at Kansas University. The letter, which purports to be from former department teaching assistants and current employees of the KU Recycling Center, said that several attempts to make the math department take better care of the information have gone unheeded.

KU spokesman Todd Cohen said the university takes breaches of personal privacy seriously. An investigation was launched Tuesday night when the Journal-World contacted KU to inquire about the documents it received.

"We need to retrieve these records as quickly as possible," Cohen said. "We take protecting this kind of information very seriously. This is a very, very serious issue."

This is the second time in the past six months that student personal data was found unsecured. This summer, a number of student final exams were discovered unsecured in the halls of Wescoe Hall, which was about to undergo renovations. At the time, the university pledged to do a better job of safeguarding records.

The records sent to the Journal-World, and possibly two other area media outlets according to an accompanying letter, included student exams, student change of grade forms, class rosters, copies of health insurance cards, copies of immigration forms as well as a copy of a Social Security card.

Math Department chairman Jack Porter said he was concerned that this information may have been ascertained through other means, like theft from an office. He said he keeps student information on his desk. He said the department does have a policy on the care of personal information, but he otherwise refused to comment.

Several students who were contacted were shocked to learn that their information was shared, but most declined to comment, citing further privacy concerns.

The university has requested that all the documents be returned to the university immediately.

The Journal-World has made the documents available to KU to assist with its investigation, said managing editor Dennis Anderson. No copies of the documents will be made.

The Journal-World has kept the documents in a locked filing cabinet since receiving them, taking them out only to review the contents and to attempt to reach people whose records are included. The documents will be destroyed when reporting of the story is complete.


ronwell_dobbs 10 years, 7 months ago

Actually, I detect a faint whiff of smugness and self-righteousness on the part of LJW:

"The Journal-World has kept the documents in a locked filing cabinet since receiving them"

Sigmund 10 years, 7 months ago

Here is how you can tell who was at fault. If it was a student, they will be dismissed and a permanent entry made into their record. If it was staff they will be reprimanded. If it was faculty, they will issue a new report, detailing a new convoluted process that took a faculty committee three months to design for staff and students to follow (faculty will be exempted) to keep this from happening again.

Sigmund 10 years, 7 months ago

Actually, since there was no mention of Martin Luther King Day nor National Breast Appreciation Day, I am surprised the LJW considers this "Breaking News."

matahari 10 years, 7 months ago

now maybe some attention will come to banks who do the very same's the trick..the thief steals a check out of someones' mail box, goes to the bank dumpster, or trash can inside bank, finds someones' account number, deposits a portion of the check into that persons account, and asks for the remainder to be dispensed to the thief. Why, what thief would be depositing funds?? and of course the person who see's extra funds in his account is more likely to 'ignore' it and the persons' who check is lost gets another one issued in a few weeks time.

toefungus 10 years, 7 months ago

While all eyes are on the medical center, the school looses control of personal data. There is no greater shortage of intelligence than at a school.

Centrist 10 years, 7 months ago

"" The Journal-World has made the documents available to KU ... ""

Umm ... "made available?"

"" The documents will be destroyed when reporting of the story is complete. ""

Shouldn't the documents simply be given back to KU?

machiavelli 10 years, 7 months ago

Files sometimes have to be kept out in the hall while renovations are going on.

Big deal.

Get a life.

If you are above ground and vertical, rejoice.

lily 10 years, 7 months ago

Yes, the math dept should take proper precautions but who died and made these people God? They turn over confidential information to possibly 3 media outlets. So they made copies. How does that make them better? They just made a bad situation completely nasty. Now there are how many people at 3 different locations who have access to all this private info. Why didn't they go to the Chancellor's Office? If the math dept needed policing, rat them off to the administration but how does putting these documents out there to more people help the situation? I have to wonder too, how much of this was theft. CURRENT employees of KU Recycling are thought to be involved. That tells me they rummaged through the stuff and took it instead of putting it in the recycle.

budwhysir 10 years, 7 months ago

so thats why we needed to upgrade the university, so we could improve the privacy of information on papers. Now I get it.

Sounds like someone may be in some trouble

shockchalk 10 years, 7 months ago

LJW is apparently refusing to return the documents to the University now................hmmmmmm, interesting.

blakus 10 years, 7 months ago

I worked for KU Recycling for 2 years. Only students work for KU Recycling and have a genuine concern for their fellow students (the people they serve). It was not uncommon to find personal information carelessly discarded in the recycling bins located in or near campus offices when I worked there. Lily implies that the Recycling crew purposely looks for information for their own gain which is rediculous. As Recyclers you have to sort paper according to color and weight in order to actually process the materials. Commonly you would see papers with information on them as you are sorting... and remember KU Recycling processes over a ton of materials a day! We would take those documents and rip them up our selves. Integrity is of the upmost importance to the Recycling crew, and I believe the steps they took to hopefully solve the problem of careless handling of personal information shows that.

lily 10 years, 7 months ago

IF Recycling crew are involved and they took papers from the recycle bins and turned them over, how is that right? I'm not saying they go through and intentionally look for stuff, because it's in their face every time. But in going through it at some time , they took it, passed on to yet more people all to make a point? Again, we don't know for certain who exactly did it. I don't care if it was Recycle staff, a former disgruntled employee or John Doe. How does it make it right for whoever did it to take confidential information and pass it on? I applaud anyone who has taken the extra time to shred papers if they saw a problem. Obviously that wasn't the case here. If Administration was aware there were existing problems, then they have some explaining to do. My point is, taking confidential information and handing it out is wrong, in my opinion, no matter who you are, or why you are doing it. Whoever did this is even guiltier than the math dept.

bisky1 10 years, 7 months ago

the right thing to do if you find something that is none of your business is box it up without really looking at it and give it back to the owner. is that what you did ljw?

lovenhaight 10 years, 7 months ago

There is no greater shortage of intelligence than when someone spells the word "loses" with two o's.

casbakee 10 years, 7 months ago

the recyclers at ku are not thieves -- if anything they were trying to make a point. people treat them like trash men, throwing anything and everything in the recycling bends with out a care of who has to go through them and sort out the trash.

so of course they have to "rummage through" the trash

they were probably sorting out the trash when they discovered this problem. you think this is the first time this has happened. obviously this has happened enough they need to make a point out of this. going to the media makes sure the situation gets taken care of. going to the chancellor's offices just takes more hoops to jump through. now it will be taken care of asap.

have you ever tried to get something taken care of at ku? i know it never happens on your time. a problem will get passed along to person to person until it is forgotten about and you have to start all over from the beginning.

this is a lesson to ku. that they need to have a better watch over their employees and make sure they are doing there jobs.

thankyou ku recyclers for making something happen.

justthefacts 10 years, 7 months ago

There are FEDERAL laws that require a school to protect student records, and that apply to a medical care provider's handling of a patient's records (FERPA and HIPAA - do a google to learn about them). If the University merely failed to shred documents it may be in the clear - legally - because most privacy laws require some type of handing the info over (or speaking about things in public). I'm not sure if being sloppy in dispossing of records violates a federal law. If it does, those whose records were released are the ones with the possible causes of action; they need to contact a PRIVATE attorney (and/or alert federal agencies who look into such things - again do that google search). But what kind of people go looking thru the trash in order to get an employer in trouble? I think perhaps disgruntled employees may want to step back and look for more deliberate intentional acts, rather then focusing upon sloppy trash handling. There is a difference between stupid and illegal.

matahari 10 years, 7 months ago

yes, something smells fishy that they turned over the stuff to the newpapers instead of law enforcement or original owners (which I understand,would have been a lot of work) but wasn't it work enough? How many pounds of paper were turned over? and why to LJW of all places? someone is trying to discredit someone, somewhere somehow for some reason~

casbakee 10 years, 7 months ago


what would be the reason to discredit the math department,

students get screwed over by ku departments everyday for a million different reasons

and there are probably way better ways to "get back" at whoever you might think has this vendetta,

they are making a point. ku promised to take care of information, and they didnt

sure, going to the police probably would of been the best way to handle the situation, however it would not take steps into making sure the problem is taken care of.

now the public is aware that ku 3 times has been caught for not taking care of private information and their reputation has been spoiled

its not the math department that is being attack. its ku's handling of every department to ensure the safety of private records.

ku needs to be punished.

oldgoof 10 years, 7 months ago

KU could solve their trash problem by delivering it all to the LJW and KC Star.... and they would just store it.

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