Data Spill at University of Hawaii


November 22, 2010
by Suada Kolovic
Every day, you’re prompted to enter personal information on the web. Whether you’re buying a Kindle from Amazon, filling out a college application or applying for a job, you’re asked for a credit card number, your social security number and, in some cases, even your mother’s maiden name. And sure, in the back of your mind you know there’s the slightest possibility that your personal information could be disclosed, but I doubt that fear was a serious concern on your university’s website. Former University of Hawaii-Manoa student Philippe Gross was no different but on Thursday, Gross filed a class-action suit against the university after the system allowed a series of privacy breaches. It was only last month that the system discovered that a retired professor had posted social security numbers and other personal information about more than 40,000 alumni on a public web server. That wasn’t the first incident either: Back in July, the system acknowledged that hackers gained access to records of 53,000 students and employees at its Manoa campus.

Every day, you’re prompted to enter personal information on the web. Whether you’re buying a Kindle from Amazon, filling out a college application or applying for a job, you’re asked for a credit card number, your social security number and, in some cases, even your mother’s maiden name. And sure, in the back of your mind you know there’s the slightest possibility that your personal information could be disclosed, but I doubt that fear was a serious concern on your university’s website. Former University of Hawaii-Manoa student Philippe Gross was no different but on Thursday, Gross filed a class-action suit against the university after the system allowed a series of privacy breaches. It was only last month that the system discovered that a retired professor had posted social security numbers and other personal information about more than 40,000 alumni on a public web server. That wasn’t the first incident either: Back in July, the system acknowledged that hackers gained access to records of 53,000 students and employees at its Manoa campus.

Mr. Gross’s lawyer, Thomas R. Grande, said the University of Hawaii had violated the constitutional right to privacy of the students and employees who were affected. “For those with access to private security information comes a heavy responsibility to protect that information,” Mr. Grande said. The University of Hawaii-Manoa has acknowledged that they are working on improving its data security and, as of right now, their approach was inadequate. Though I doubt the thousands affected by the breaches take comfort in knowing that only now, after two incidents, has the university taken action.

Do you think the University of Hawaii – or any institution for that matter – should be liable for data breaches?

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