Educational Institutions Need Proactive Approach to Protect Students’ Sensitive Data, Says Saikali

NPR is reporting on Florida’s efforts to ensure confidential information, such as Social Security numbers, is stored appropriately. State authorities are auditing school districts, state colleges and state universities in an effort to protect students’ Social Security numbers.

The audits, which are still in progress, have found that at least one-third of education employees had access to confidential information that was not necessary to perform their work functions. In addition to the risk, there is legal liability according to Shook’s Privacy and Data Security Practice Chair Al Saikali.

“You know what the plaintiff’s lawyer is going to argue?” Saikali told NPR. “If you’re dealing in plutonium, like highly sensitive personal information . . . then you have an obligation to make sure that that information is protected, and that you are adopting the appropriate safeguards.”

NPR reports data breaches in the education sector have occurred nationally and in Florida. Businesses and public entities can be sued for a lack of proper security measures.

“They’ve tried to recover money for mental anguish, as a result of having them worrying about what’s going on with (their credit record),” Saikali said. 

The NPR article also was picked up by the Associated Press

Saikali advises companies to ensure they are compliant with laws governing privacy matters in addition to handling class action lawsuits arising from data breaches or alleged privacy incidents.