Student Data Use at the University

Below are examples of how student data is used at the University of Colorado Boulder:

  • Spreadsheets and other attachments that clearly identify a student—even if just by a last name or a student ID—and contains other protected student data (GPAs, courses, probation information, suspension information, etc.) AND ARE NOT PASSWORD PROTECTED. If there is any personally identifiable information (PII) that clearly links a student with non-directory FERPA data, and it falls into the hands of someone who does not have a legitimate educational interest in receiving this data, it is a FERPA violation.

    NOTE: You might be very careful in addressing the email to a recipient who also has a legitimate educational interest in this data, but email is not a secured method of communication (APS Use of Electronic Communications and Student Email Policy). Never send an unprotected file of protected data via email unless it is password protected. In addition, we have seen on occasion unsecured attachments that may have legitimately been sent to someone on campus, but then forwarded on to others who have no legitimate educational interest (as defined by FERPA) in having access to this data. Always password protect a file. You might now be wondering if it is okay to send a spreadsheet of names with directory information (college, major, etc.) This would be fine UNLESS it contains information about a student who has full privacy protection. Then you must password protect the file. The best practice is to always protect the file, even if it only contains student IDs.

  • What if the body of the email contains student ID, full name and protected data? Is this okay to send? Same problem as above, but we understand the need to communicate with others on campus about sensitive student matters. Best practice is to use the last four digits of the student ID if you are communicating about a small number of students. Not as good but acceptable is using the student ID with last name/initial only. But in the event that you are communicating about a number of students, put it in an attachment and password protect it.
  • Do you know that if you have documents that have FERPA-protected data about students, you need to dispose of them in confidential disposal? Just putting them in your desk-side trash or recycle can expose this data to individuals who do not have a legitimate educational interest in seeing this data. Always dispose of this in a confidential disposal bin or shred the document.
  • Never send SSNs via email. Identify theft is on the rise. "CBS This Morning" did a report on identity theft tax fraud "spreading like wildfire." This report cited employees of schools and hospitals with access to personal data were as primary sources for scammers to obtain data needed for perpetrating this fraud. As stewards of significant amounts of personal data on students, faculty and staff in our university community, we need to have a heightened awareness of this and the vulnerabilities it presents. Data breaches are costly for everyone. Protect data from our systems like you would your own personal data.

We have seen a number of ISIS screenshots sent via email lately that clearly identify the student (or the student is identified in the body of the email) and contains a great deal of sensitive data, or data the recipient may not have a legitimate educational interest in receiving. Please use your knowledge of FERPA and university policies before sending this much information about a student. If still needed, send the screenshot as a password-protected document.


Dear Student,

Your Spring 2015 enrollment appointment has now been posted in MyCUInfo.

Dear Student,

If you intend to graduate in December 2014, be sure to complete each item below by the date listed. To find out about your graduation requirements, contact your department or advisor.

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