The Surrey School District has confirmed the number of students whose personal data, including social insurance numbers, was posted publicly on the district website is greater than initially reported.
Last month, a student alerted Peace Arch News that the district posted private student information on the Surrey Schools website. The Surrey School District confirmed to PAN that 67 students had their scholarship applications “inadvertently” posted on the school district’s website from April 19 to May 6.
Following the publication of an article about the incident, a parent reached out to PAN and said more students were affected by the incident than what was reported. The parent also said that the personal information was posted publicly for nearly a year.
This week, Surrey Schools communication manager Ritinder Matthew confirmed that “upon further investigation” the district’s privacy office found an additional 111 applications that were mistakenly posted on its website. The data was available to the public from May 2020 to the end of March 2021. Students were notified of the breach on July 15.
“These applications were intended to be posted on an internal site but were mistakenly published to the website without access restrictions,” Matthew said via email. “In previous years, these applications were not posted but were instead shared via hardcopy with scholarship committee members. This process was updated due to the pandemic so members could access remotely.
“We apologize to all of our students that were affected, and we are working closely with OIPC (Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner) to ensure that all appropriate steps have been take to address this incident.”
In letters addressed to the parents of affected students, the district said it made arrangements with Trans Union of Canada to provide credit monitoring services for a 12-month period to all affected students.
The parent who contacted PAN said not only were student identities put at risk, but some of the scholarship essays can contain “deeply personal” information.
“This was just really bad, it’s such private information,” said the parent, who asked not to be identified for security reasons.
“The essays are not only personal, but they’re financial, too. If you’re applying for one that is based on financial need, you’re opening up your entire family.”
While the information was publicly available, the district said it has not received any reports that the information was accessed by unauthorized individuals or has been used inappropriately.