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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    1,948

    Angry Privacy of E-Mail and Disability Status

    California - I am considered disabled by my community college. I received an e-mail today that had the addresses of ALL of the students who are eligible for disability services shown in my Cc line. I am really angry that my e-mail address was released to over 550 other students.

    I found this Privacy Policy on the community college district's web site:
    "Sharing personal information
    The CCD does not share, rent or sell personal, financial or health-related information to anyone and strictly adheres to all state and federal laws pertaining to privacy of records. Additionally, the CCD will not disclose personal information unless we have your written permission or are under court order to do so."

    Does the school have a responsibility to protect my privacy and that of my fellow students?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Toledo, OH
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    16,307

    Default Re: Privacy of E-Mail/Disability Status

    Certainly, the University is expected to adhere to its own privacy policy.

    It would seem that someone was careless or unskilled when creating the mailing list. Mistakes do happen.

    I understand your annoyance, but what do you propose be done, outside of perhaps an apology?

  3. #3
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    Arrow Re: Privacy of E-Mail/Disability Status

    An acknowledgment of the mistake and at least lip service that a process has been established so the same mistake is not made again.

    I sent an e-mail back to the DSPS office:
    "I am disturbed that you sent this e-mail so that over 550 people now know which e-mail addresses are associated with DSPS students. I would think this is a serious breach of confidentiality."

    and she wrote back
    "your email is not shown.If you look at the TO: field you will see my name.
    Your specific email address is hidden from any others."

    and SO I wrote back
    "Actually - the addresses do show for everyone who received your e-mail.
    All of the student's e-mails addresses were entered on the Cc line and could be seen by anyone."
    And THEN I cut and pasted ALL 556 addresses and included them in my message back to SHOW her I was not just blowing smoke.  

    I might be disabled but I'm NOT stupid.
    This was two days ago and I have not heard a peep back

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Toledo, OH
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    16,307

    Default Re: Privacy of E-Mail/Disability Status

    Well, it's not illegal to be rude or to be a techno-moron.

    On the bright side, the other 550 people on the list are disabled, too, so it's not like they're going to track you down to harass you.

    Let it go. She's not going to apologize for her stupidity, and no one can make her. Or, if it makes you feel better, send her a "Sending E-mail" tutorial.

  5. #5
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    Jan 2008
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    Smile Re: Privacy of E-Mail/Disability Status

    Quote Quoting LawResearcherMissy
    View Post
    send her a "Sending E-mail" tutorial.
    Good idea

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Key West, FL
    Posts
    2,350

    Default Re: Privacy of E-Mail/Disability Status

    Boy, you can sure get some BAD advice for free. Note that the well-meaning busy bodies giving advice in this thread are not lawyers, much less experts in ADA or privacy law.

    This is a privacy violation. Just because the person sending the email was an uneducated moron for using a CC rather than a proper mailing list does NOT excuse it or let the college off the hook.

    The fact that other people on the list are also disabled does not mean it is any less of a privacy violation. Anyone of those could make further use of that list which would compound the issue and make it much worse. NONE of those people should have the list or have access to it.

    Someone could be on that list without any obvious disability, because maybe they have HIV or something and it would be possible for someone with access to that list which is now in the hands of 500+ people to go further with it. There are ADA and privacy issues at work here.

    I would raise holy hell. Who is this person's supervisor? Who is responsible for that department, office, or whatever.

    I would go directly to the dean of students or the college president.

    First, this is a CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT waiting to happen. This is perfect for a class action. There are torts and law violations that do NOT require any direct proof of damages and this is one.

    The college must have written procedures to make sure this never happens again. There needs to be someone signing off on doing such an email in addition to the person sending it. There needs to be a public apology, especially to the list. They must inform everyone on the list of this error and point out to them that it is confidential information and the list must not be communicated to anyone else or used for any purpose whatsoever.

    The person responsible should be reprimanded in writing and re-trained forthwith.

    They should pay damages to you. They could end up paying $10,000 to everyone on the list if they are not careful.

  7. #7
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    Jan 2008
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    1,948

    Question Re: Privacy of E-Mail/Disability Status

    Seriously? Everyone I have spoken to (friends and family) think I am totally over reacting and being too sensitive about being 'outed' as disabled.

    The woman who sent the e-mail is the head person in the DSPS office so I don't know who her supervisor would be - mayhap the dean?
    And I just found out that as of June 1st all college offices are closed on Fridays due to the budget crisis - so it's not like they can afford a lawsuit.

    I completely agree with this
    "The college must have written procedures to make sure this never happens again. There needs to be someone signing off on doing such an email in addition to the person sending it. There needs to be a public apology, especially to the list. They must inform everyone on the list of this error and point out to them that it is confidential information and the list must not be communicated to anyone else or used for any purpose whatsoever." But am I going to have to pay a lawyer to get it done???

  8. #8
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    1,948

    Thumbs down Re: Privacy of E-Mail/Disability Status

    Okay - that is weird. After I replied to Missy someone else wrote back and I even cut and pasted some of his advice. I wonder why the post was removed?? Anyway... I took what he said and wrote again to the school...

    "Hello Dr. X - I did not hear back from you. I don't know if you received the e-mail I sent last week.
    I want to be sure that you know that DSPS did in fact send the June 9th e-mail with all of the addresses visible as shown below.
    Is the school going to implement written procedures to make sure this does not happen again?
    Will there be an apology to the people who had their information released?
    Do you intend to inform everyone on the list of this error and point out to them that it is confidential information and the list must not be communicated to anyone else or used for any other purpose?
    I realize that you are quite busy, but I do hope to hear from you very soon."

    I received this back today
    "Good morning 5minutes, thank you for bringing this to our attention. We have resolved the issue on the mass emails. There will be no further emails sent to students in this manner."

    So Missy is right - she is not going to apologize. So much for a school official setting a good example on how to handle a mistake.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    1,948

    Arrow Re: Privacy of E-Mail/Disability Status

    For anyone in a similar situation....
    I continued with the advice from the post that disappeared and contacted a lawyer. Here is part of what he wrote back,

    "You have a right of privacy as to the fact that you have disabled status, or anything about your disability. I do not think the response you received was adequate to your questions.

    I do not practice in San Diego but I would encourage you to find an attorney in San Diego and bring suit against the college on behalf of yourself and the other 550 students for breach of privacy, and violation of the ADA.

    Many suits have been brought against business for inadequate compliance with the ADA over handicap parking, bathroom access, etc. In your situation, you can show that this action was harmful to 550 individuals. I think an attorney will be eager to take this case and vindicate your rights.

    If you are having trouble finding an attorney, broaden your search to attorneys handling consumer class actions and employment discrimination law.

    Interview the attorney that express interest and determine which ones have experience in consumer class actions. There are many new requirements, so you need someone that is up on all of them.

    I wish you the best of luck and hope to read about your success on the internet. I believe that a litigation is the only way to get an irresponsible entity to pay attention. Unfortunate but true."

    The sad part was that I called the San Diego Bar for a referral and they said that they did not have a lawyer to whom I could be referred.. That was before I wrote to this man in a different county. SO I guess I will try my local association again and see if a different person answering the phone can help.

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