UNCC reviews policy on sharing students' personal info

by: Peter Daut Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - After Eyewitness News uncovered the personal, sensitive information of students can end up in the hands of anyone who asks for it, University of North Carolina at Charlotte announced it has now changed its policies.
 
Nick Chandler is relieved that UNC Charlotte has agreed to change how it defines -- and shares-- the personal information of students.
 
"The amount of information they were sharing was just far too much to share in the digital age," Chandler said.
 
In May, Eyewitness News reported that Chandler and other UNC Charlotte students received text ads for apartments near campus. Chandler found out the business got his name, number, address and email address directly from UNC Charlotte.
 
When Eyewitness News anchor Peter Daut asked the school for information on students, it sent him the names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, dates and places of birth, scholarship information and majors for every current student, roughly 25,000.
 
School officials told him at the time it had no choice but to share the information, because of the decades-old North Carolina Public Records Act.
 
But just weeks after the investigation aired, UNC Charlotte emailed students about "a substantial change in the definition of directory information."  Directory information now means anything "not generally considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed."
Personal information -- including email addresses, phone numbers, addresses and dates and places of birth-- will now be defined as "limited used directory information," and restricted to "university officials" and "external parties contractually affiliated with the university."
 
Mecklenburg County Rep. Tricia Cotham was furious when she found out that student information was being shared so freely. But after learning of the changes, Cotham said, "I'm delighted that the university has made some changes to its policy. If it wasn't for the story and the students, it may not have happened."
 
UNC Charlotte declined to speak on camera, but emailed a statement, saying: "UNC Charlotte has taken a proactive step in managing the availability of student information. The university no longer designates certain student information, including phone numbers and addresses, as directory information."
 
As for Nick Chandler, he's pleased that more is being done to keep the personal information of students safe.
 
"This story absolutely pushed the school to make some effective changes," he said.
 

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