Alum raises privacy concerns for Laurier

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

While preparing to apply to Canada’s police forces, Bob Baumgartner, a Wilfrid Laurier University graduate, decided to do a Google search of himself, and found more than he was expecting.

After typing in his old e-mail address, Baumgartner found a list of 297 former WLU students that included their personal contact information, such as phone numbers, email addresses and home addresses for not only the students, but their parents as well.

“It was the only thing in the search that came up,” explained Baumgartner.

“I was a little concerned because not only did it have my information, but it had my parents’ information.”

“Both of my parents are Laurier alumni, they went there back in the day, and I told them that their contact information was being posted on the Internet by Laurier and they weren’t too happy,” he added.

While Baumgartner shared this with his parents, he has yet to contact either the school or anyone else on the list that the Google search brought up.

However, he expressed his distress regarding the situation and emphasized the need for Laurier to take action.

“For me it was a bit concerning because in today’s privacy age, to have [that information] it makes it easy to become victims of fraud,” he said.

“It’s a very serious privacy breach, so just having people’s information that easily accessible is something that concerns me, especially when our school claims to place our privacy in high regards.”

After racking his brain, Baumgartner still cannot remember why the list may have been composed.

He told The Cord that he doesn’t remember joining any specific groups or taking part in any surveys conducted by Laurier that may have collected such extensive personal information.

“The school is all about privacy and our rights, so it’s just unfortunate that they made this mistake, and it impacts the 250 odd people that are on that list because it’s their information and their family’s information,” expressed Baumgartner.

“It just points out how disappointing good old Laurier is being.”

When The Cord contacted Laurier’s Information Technology department, Carl Langford, manager: IdM, e-mail and projects, said that he was not aware of the file being made public online.

He assured The Cord that the situation was being taken very seriously, as it is a problem not only for the school, but also for those students and their families involved.

Langford also stated that it was being looked into right away, and that the file was to be immediately removed when found.

In an e-mail to The Cord, Shereen Rowe, WLU’s privacy officer and university secretary, stated that, “The university takes this incident very seriously and is working hard to understand how it happened and to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”

As of press time, both the ITS department and Privacy Office were looking into the situation.

These actions are what Baumgartner wanted in terms of a response from Laurier once they realized the issue at hand.

“I’m hoping they would apologize for that breach of trust and remove the information from the website right away, that would be a first step,” he said.

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