NUIG apologises to staff over data blunder

NUI Galway has apologised to staff whose personal information was wrongly circulated to colleagues.

The university has confirmed there was an “inadvertent” breach of data protection within its School of Law. A spokesperson said the data protection breach was treated “seriously” but was dealt with appropriately.

A whistleblower said the blunder was made just months after the locks in the School of Law administration office were changed.

“The irony is that the locks were changed, ostensibly for security reasons, and clearly the concern being that sensitive data would be divulged. And yet sensitive information about staff was circulated internally by mistake,” a source said.

An email was sent to academic staff in the School of Law on December 22 last, entitled ‘eligibility for sabbatical leave’.

Staff believe that the document was supposed to document who was eligible for leave only. However, the circulated Excel document contained other tabs with academics’ private information including dates of birth, work commencement dates, salary scales, proposed retirement dates, whether they were on probation or confirmed in the posts and some additional information.

The Excel document also listed the ‘gender’ of the workers, and it is understood that a couple of staff were recorded as having ‘unknown gender’.

The Head of School issued an apology to the recipients of the email once the mistake was made known, sources confirmed.

In a statement, NUIG said it is, “completely committed to ensuring compliance with data protection regulation and the university has well-documented and well-defined policies in place around data protection regulation.”

It added: “The university is aware of an inadvertent breach in an internal staff communication on December 22, 2015 and while this is taken very seriously we are confident that this, or any notified data protection issue, has been dealt with and the university can confirm that all appropriate steps and actions were taken in dealing with same. The university does advise that there are inaccuracies in the language used your email below and reserves its position in respect of same.”