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Ball State Accidental Email Violated Federal Student Privacy Law

The US Department of Education says an email attachment accidentally sent to Ball State University students violated a federal law protecting student privacy.

“I was honestly shocked," says Ball State sophomore Adam. We aren’t using his last name because of the email he received this week.

What was supposed to be a notice that he was on academic probation for the spring semester included much more information. Attached to the e-mail was a spreadsheet listing all other Ball State students on probation. It also included their first and last names, student ID number, email, phone number, GPA, cohort and class.

"When I saw that I had everyone's information in my inbox, I knew someone had made a big mistake."

“When I saw that I had everyone’s information in my inbox,” he says, “I knew someone had made a big mistake.”

Adam wasn’t the only student who received the e-mail. The university says it was sent to 59 students who were also on probation. Which is a violation of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The U.S. Department of Education confirmed the email violated the federal FERPA law that protects the privacy of student education records. Generally, schools must have written permission from a student or a student’s parents to release such information.

Ball State spokeswoman Joan Todd says the email was simply human error. The attachment was supposed to be a list of academic progress help sessions.

“That’s obviously not what was supposed to happened and the university is very sorry. They will certainly take measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Todd says.

Ball State sophomore Adam says the university should have been more careful with his details.

“I realize it was a mistake but at the same time, it’s my personal information and it’s out there,” he says. “I don’t know what people are going to do with it.”

Todd says the university will contact each student individually and ask them to delete the email and not share the information.

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