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Uni employee loses laptop containing confidential disability information

Andrew Bell and Andy Zephyr report.

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A laptop containing students’ confidential information held in the University of Sydney’s Disability Assist Database was “lost in transit” by a University employee on Monday night.

The database details all relevant personal information of students who receive formal support from the University for their disability, including listed disability diagnosis, mailing address, legal name, SID, phone number and email address.

The potentially compromised information includes all data which is viewable from each student’s individual Disability Assist online profile.

The information was in the possession of a University ICT staff member, who was working on upgrades to the structure of the database, according to the University’s Privacy Officer Tim Robinson.

Honi understands that any attached documentation which is accessible through the Disability Assist profile was not on the laptop in question.

Jordi Austin, the Director of Student Support Services, distributed an email to all students registered in the program today at 1:43 PM to notify them that the laptop containing the information had been “lost in transit” on the evening of Monday 29 February.

In it, Austin notes, “While the computer is password protected, the University is concerned that this does not absolutely guarantee the security of the information. It is possible that the database could be inappropriately and unlawfully accessed.”

The University has notified the NSW Police and has said it will also notify the NSW Privacy Commissioner. Affected students will be informed once the investigation is complete.

Austin has also noted that all students have the right to register a complaint to the University via Privacy Officer Tim Robinson.

A university spokesperson could not elaborate on the situation at the time of publication.

“While the investigation is under way, we are unable to provide any further details other than those in the email below which was sent to all affected students today,” she said.

SRC Disability Officer Linna Jefferson stressed the anxiety and uncertainty that this potential leak of information has for students in the program.

“There are huge stigmas to having a disability on campus. Many people choose to not even disclose to their lecturers exactly what is wrong. This situation places an immense burden on the students.”

The Disability Enquiry number, to which students were directed in the email, could not be reached. A pre-recorded answering machine indicated that they were experiencing a high volume of enquiries from students at the time of publication.

If you have further information, please contact editors@honisoit.com