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Human error’ exposes student finances

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When the Ohio State Student Service Center sent an email Wednesday to students with outstanding balances on Autumn Quarter fees, an Excel sheet containing the names, student ID numbers, email addresses and the exact amount of 2,466 students’ outstanding balances was mistakenly attached.

A follow-up email was later sent by the SSC with the subject line “Apologies.” The follow-up email stated, “Earlier this afternoon, we sent you an e-mail message describing an unpaid balance on your Statement of Account. Unfortunately, attached to that message is a list that we did not intend to attach.

“While the substance of the email message is correct, the attachment is a mistake for which we are very sorry.”

Director of communication for the Office of Enrollment Services at OSU, Allen Kraus, told The Lantern in an email that the mistake was “the result of simple human error.”

Still, students do not need to be concerned with identity theft as a result of the mistaken email, Kraus said in the email.

“The release of this information is embarrassing for everyone involved — for the students who are impacted and for our office — but it does not represent the kind of security risk that might result in identity theft,” Kraus said in the email.

Kraus said the university is investigating the incident to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

“We will indeed be looking very closely at how this happened and how to be sure that it won’t happen again,” Kraus said in the email. “We take student privacy very, very seriously and are hugely sorry and disappointed to have made this mistake.”

Despite the SSC’s statement that students were not at risk, some students were concerned that the information had been publicized.

Jaime Ortega-Simo, a fourth-year in journalism, is among the students who received the email. His information was also included in the Excel spreadsheet.

“I could not believe that they committed the mistake of sending everybody’s information to other students just like me,” Ortega-Simo said. “I’m a little bit shocked.”

Ortega-Simo said he was worried about the possibility of other students forwarding the information on to other people.

“If I have any friends (who received the email), now they’re going to know what my balance is and I don’t think that’s right,” he said. “It should be private and they made it public.”

Some students don’t share Ortego-Simo’s concerns, however.

Alex DelPriore, a second-year in communication, who was also among those who received the emails and whose name was also included on the Excel sheet said, “It doesn’t matter too much. I wouldn’t have even opened the attachment if it weren’t for the second email.”

But Ortega-Simo said he plans to speak with people at the SSC about the Excel sheet. Though he said he hasn’t had any previous problems with personal information being released, Ortega-Simo feels the university needs to be more responsible when it comes to students’ information.

“If they are going to be strict with students with their deadlines, we students assume that they should be strict with themselves,” he said. “It’s just like leaving the fire in the kitchen, the gas in the kitchen. You just don’t do that.”

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