Officials at Memorial University have investigated a privacy breach that came to light earlier today (Monday, Sept. 28, 2009).
Some confidential, personal information was contained in notebooks that were created from used paper that had been printed on one side. The “Better Side” notebook project is designed to re-use the blank side of discarded paper. Paper is collected from a number of university departments and MUNSU, the undergraduate students’ union, and then bound in notebooks that are sold to students. There is voluntary participation in the program and all university offices that take part are aware that the paper collected in a designated box will be for the notebooks.
The investigation has determined that the source of the confidential information is transmission slips from a fax machine operated by MUNSU out of its commercial operations. Students used the machine to fax personal information to a variety of organizations. Each time a document was faxed, the top page of it was replicated on the transmission slip. It appears some of those transmission slips ended up in the recycling bin and were submitted to the “Better Side” notebook project without further review.
As for the paper from other participating university offices that entered the “Better Side” notebook project, the university had in place measures to thoroughly review materials prior to submission.
University officials have contacted the province’s privacy commissioner to report the breach and are making efforts to collect the outstanding personal information. The university is taking measures to identify and contact all those whose personal information may have been compromised.
The “Better Side” notebook project, which is a joint initiative of the university’s sustainability office, MUNSU and MUN Project Green, has been suspended for the time being and the university is making efforts to collect outstanding notebooks. Students in possession of these notebooks can redeem them at the Division of Marketing and Communications (Arts and Administration Building, Room A-1024) for replacement notebooks.