The University of Mary Washington in Fredricksburg, Virginia, recently issued a memo to students, informing them of a data security failure that may have exposed the personal information of approximately 7,500 students, the Free-Lance Star reported.
According to the report, information was disclosed on the university's EagleNet, a private web portal that can only be accessed by UMW students, faculty and staff. The information posted included student Social Security numbers, names and dates of birth, the news provider stated.
School officials said they removed the information on May 23, but not before three students accessed it. Though based on the limited exposure of the information, one school official said it is unlikely student privacy was compromised.
"We deeply regret this situation and any inconvenience or concern it may cause you," UMW chief information officer Dana German wrote in a memo to students, according to the Free-Lance Star. "We are fully committed to maintaining the privacy of UMW student information, and we have taken steps to avoid any possible recurrence of this incident."
A need for more stringent data protection practices among American universities is evident, given that UMW isn't the first educational institution to make headlines in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, attorneys representing students from the University of Hawaii criticized the school's data security vulnerabilities, asserting that the university has not taken the steps necessary to ensure personal information isn't compromised.
This criticism came after the university suffered four data breaches in recent years, the most severe of which potentially exposed the information of more than 40,000 former students.
There are a number of steps universities and other organizations can take to bolster data security practices. One of the key steps involves educating university staff about data protection and the regulations that dictate it. When employees are knowledgeable about the implications of data security, they may be less likely to make mistakes and accidentally post personal information about students.