Student Disability Office Breaches Student Privacy

By Cameron Cripps-Kennedy 

Late last month, UNSW’s Student Disability Office disregarded the need for student anonymity and privacy by sending the email addresses – and therefore the names or student numbers – of 324 students in a group email.

Basic email etiquette would entail listing recipients in the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) section. This would enable the Unit to send the email to multiple accounts without also exposing the personal details of those accounts.

Other students have claimed that similar breaches of privacy have taken place before.

Earlier this year, the Unit sent UNSW student, Andrew, an email for students who had “self-identified as a student with a disability” upon enrolment. This email was sent to around 95 students without the use of the BCC. It listed one student’s full name and the zID numbers of the other students.

Even last year, during an appeal process to withdraw from several subjects, confidential documents detailing my specific conditions were forwarded to the administrative staff processing my request.

The UNSW Disability Services website says that their services are “free and confidential”, so there is an expectation that the personal details of students will be kept private.

Tharunka contacted UNSW’s current Student with Disabilities Officer, Edward Valenta, for comment. He said he emailed the Unit shortly after the incident last month, and received a personal apology from the person responsible for sending the email. Mr Valenta has spoken with the Unit since then, and has said he will be arranging a meeting with the Manager to discuss the breach sometime this week.