University of East Anglia in students' personal data breach

UEA campus Image copyright N Chadwick
Image caption The University of East Anglia mistakenly emailed sensitive personal information about students to nearly 300 undergraduates

A university has mistakenly emailed hundreds of students intimate and sensitive personal information about dozens of fellow undergraduates.

Details of health problems, family bereavements and personal issues were sent by the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich to 298 students.

Megan Baynes, 23, said she felt "sick and horrified" when she realised her details had been shared.

The UEA apologised "unreservedly" and said an inquiry had begun.

The email contained a spreadsheet listing 172 names and details extenuating circumstances in which extensions and other academic concessions were granted to 42 students.

'Felt sick'

It was sent to nearly 300 undergraduates, including Ms Baynes, a former editor of student newspaper Concrete.

She is currently awaiting the results of her American Literature and Creative Writing degree, and had been granted extensions for coursework because of an illness suffered by a family member.

"I felt sick at seeing my personal situation written in a spreadsheet, and then seemingly sent to everyone on my course," she said.

"My situation was not the worst on there but there are some on there that are so personal. There are people I know and I feel so awful for them and can't imagine how they are feeling."

Image copyright UEA
Image caption A second email was sent out after the error was discovered

Theo Antoniou Phillips, UEA Students' Union undergraduate education officer, said: "This is a shocking and utterly unacceptable data breach that should never have happened."

Jo Swo, the union's welfare, community and diversity officer, said: "Given the university is supposed to be making mental health a priority, this is a real slap in the face to students who have sought support."

In a statement, a UEA spokeswoman said: "An email was mistakenly sent to 298 American Studies undergraduates this morning containing details of 42 students with extenuating circumstances.

"This clearly should not have happened and the university apologises unreservedly. The university has launched an urgent enquiry and is contacting all affected students to offer support.

"Anyone needing support should call 01603 592761. The university is informing the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office)."

The ICO has been contacted for comment.

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