By Sean Tepper
Hundreds of confidential email addresses belonging to students registered with Ryerson’s access centre were compromised in a mass email sent out by the centre on Monday.
The email, titled “RE: Important Test Centre Procedure Change,” was sent out at 10:36 a.m. on Oct. 15 to more than 200 students who use both the Access and Test Centres.
Under policies set forth by Ryerson’s senate, mass messages of this kind are not permitted to disclose personal information about the recipients. This one had all of their email addresses listed in the address line.
It was the first thing Mark Dukes noticed when he opened the email.
“I had to walk around [my room] because it boiled my blood,” said Dukes, a formerly registered Access Centre member with chronic mental health disabilities. “I feel violated.” According to Senate Policy 159:
Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities, “information on accommodation is only released on a need-to-know basis within the university community or when the student consents to a broader release of information.” This includes members’ contact information.
Shortly after noticing that all of the recipients’ email addresses were listed in the address line, Dukes sent out a mass email of his own.
“I wrote an email to everyone on that list asking them if they thought it was wildly inappropriate that emails were disclosed therefore revealing our identities as members of the access centre,” said Dukes, who is not registered with the Access Centre this semester.
By the end of the day, Dukes received nearly 20 responses from students who shared his concerns, primarily because most email addresses use full names, making them easy to identify.
“I’ve gone out and I’ve advocated [for mental health rights], I’ve disclosed my name before but that was of my own volition, that was my choice because it is my issue and mine alone,” he said. “I’m supposed to be safe [at Ryerson], anonymous. I don’t need other students in my class looking at me thinking I’m nuts.”
Marc Emond, the manager of Ryerson’s access centre, admits that the centre made a mistake in revealing the email addresses of its recipients and assures that no other information was revealed.
“This was a human error and the list of recipients was added to the [email] and our procedure is to add that list of names to the ‘blind copy’ field,” said Emond.
“We’re aware that people can make assumptions about who’s on that list and they are somehow connected with the Access Centre, but there’s nothing beyond that that’s evident by the list of email addresses.”
It was the first mass email that the Access Centre has sent since Ryerson switched to Gmail on Oct. 9.
Since the message was sent, Emond has received various emails from students voicing their concerns.
“We consider this a mistake, it’s not something that I’m happy about and it certainly is something that we’re sorry occurred,” he said. “I’m following up with the privacy office at Ryerson and certainly looking at our practices and procedures that will further guard against human error.”
Still, Dukes is wary of the potential repercussions of this breach of privacy.
“From here on out I don’t know where this email list went,” he said. “Once it left the hands of the Access Centre and went to every student on the list I don’t know where the hell it went.”
No specific names or email addresses were revealed during the process of writing this article.