47

The professor of a US university where I graduated from with a master's degree maintains a website that he makes available for public search. He lists students that attended one of his courses, including the groups they were in and the topics they chose for presentation. When someone does a public search with my name using google or yahoo, this information comes up.

This has been published for many years and I recently requested the IT department and the professor to block my name from public search. I do not provide such information myself online and it is more than annoying for me that this information is available on the internet. So far, the university has refused to remove my name.

Which department of a university handles complaints of such a nature? Is there any law that entitles me to get a removal? Do I need to hire a lawyer for such a silly issue? What course of action do you recommend?

10
  • 4
    Legal issues aside, it could be helpful to ask why the professor does not want to remove your name. I’d guess something like: when he is assessed for grant applications, internal promotions, etc, this website may be read as a record of his teaching experience. If you know his motivation, then you can try to suggest an alternative which works for to you both: e.g. that on the public-facing webpage he could give a disclaimer “some student names omitted by request, for privacy reasons”, while still including the full list in non-public versions of the document.
    – PLL
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 17:24
  • 8
    Contact the ombudsman (if there is one) or the legal affairs office. The ombudsman/student advisory committee may refuse because you're not a current student. Alternatively, would you be satisfied if the professor changed your names to initials?
    – mkennedy
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 18:16
  • 1
    Did they affirmatively refuse to remove your name, or did they just not respond? Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 22:53
  • 4
    I don't really understand, why it is so important for you. It serves as a proof for you, for example as the validity of your degree. I suggest don't believe this pathologic data protection hyteria (especially while surely you also have a lot of google, apple, etc. accounts), and actually what you need is not hiding your data, but advertise it. Advertise yourself, for the academic programs selections and the workplace HRs of the future.
    – peterh
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 9:13
  • 2
    @SnakeDoc: I don't think it is up to us to question why.
    – cbeleites
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 19:35

1 Answer 1

87

In the United States, educational records - including the fact of your enrollment in this particular course - are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

FERPA prohibits disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records without the student's consent (except for directory information, which class enrollment is not - and you also have the right to limit disclosure of directory information, on request).

You can contact the professor and insist that he remove your information from his site, as he is illegally disclosing course enrollment without your consent. You can also find out who fields FERPA complaints and questions at that university (typically the registrar's office) and ask them for help in limiting disclosure of your education records. If this doesn't help, you may file a FERPA complaint here.

9
  • 5
    Note that "honors and awards" count as directory information, so, for example, a professor listing the names of the members of a group that won an award for their project might be an exception to your answer. That said, as you correctly mentioned, they should still comply if you request removal. Degrees earned and dates of attendance also don't require permission to release, IIRC.
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 14:55
  • 2
    It's also possible (if not likely) that OP gave consent at any number of times during his enrollment and tenure at the institution. Whether or not OP can rescind this permission is another question. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 16:43
  • 18
    @Nate FERPA also allows students to withdraw consent for disclosure, so the answer to that other question would be "yes"
    – ff524
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 16:46
  • 3
    The ed.gov page says a FERPA complaint must be "filed within 180 days of the alleged violation or within 180 days after the complainant knew or should have known about the violation." If the OP has known about the issue for years, then it's too late for them to make a FERPA complaint. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 19:41
  • 14
    @NateEldredge I suspect that failing to remove the information from the website on request (which was recent) also constitutes a violation. (More specifically: the student can say that he initially consented to the disclosure, and didn't do anything about it, but now wishes to withdraw that consent, and the violation is the professor's continued disclosure after withdrawal of consent.)
    – ff524
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 19:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .