Penn State Researcher Posts Marine Corps SSNs

A Penn State researcher in June accidentally posted the names and personal data of about 8,400 United States Marines, the university confirmed last week.

The data, which included Social Security numbers, was available through a Penn State website for 11 days, said a university spokeswoman. The university removed the data June 18, immediately after a Marine found his personal information on the site via an Internet search engine.

The Marine Corps Times first reported the news. The Daily Collegian, the Penn State student newspaper, also covered the incident.

No reported instances of identity theft or fraud have stemmed from the incident, a Marine Corps spokesman said.

The researcher was apparently working on a project that involved electronic data on firing-range scores at Parris Island, SC, from 2004 to 2006. He posted the data, which he hoped to share with other collaborators on the project, the spokeswoman said. But the researcher didn't realize that those files included personally identifying details, Powers said.

Penn State reduced its reliance on Social Security numbers in 2005, when it switched to nine-digit university identification numbers.

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Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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