Student Concern Grows Over Sale of Alumni Mailing List
New law allows the sharing of alumni contact information
March 7, 2006 8:58 AM
This month SF State’s Alumni Association will be sending information to all alumni on a new law that allows California's public universities to sell their contact information to partner companies.
These companies would have to have an established contract with the school in order to obtain your information.
State Senate Bill 569 became law in January and allows universities to share the names, home addresses and e-mail addresses of alumni as long as they are given the option to not participate. Alumni are to be notified of this option by mail or through the Internet.
“That’s ridiculous,” said finance major Richard Parker, 27, who points out that even a name can easily reveal other information about a person.
“The option should be ‘Do you want this?', not ‘Here’s what we’re going to do unless you answer in two days,’” Parker said. “Our economy is based on information, but what happened to privacy?"
One alumnus, Vicky Tang, said she has concerns about her information being shared, but had not received any notification about the issue.
“It’s our information they have and they have no right to sell anything that doesn’t belong to them,” she wrote in an email.
According to the director of alumni relations, Nancy Gonzalez, the association has more than 220,000 valid mailing addresses and will receive royalties for every person that signs up as well as a bonus at the end of each quarter.
Any money made from sharing the information will be going to Alumni Association Scholarships, said Gonzalez. The association typically gives away about $20,000 through several scholarships.
Students who are graduating this semester are especially concerned about the new law.
“We have enough trouble already,” said Sharon Barraca, 24, a senior majoring in sociology. “We can’t keep anything private anymore.”
Barraca said she is concerned having information shared in this way will promote fraud.
“And I want to see where the money goes,” she said, adding that the simplest things on campus, such as a broken sink, may need repair yet money goes into buying new televisions. “The money should go into other things, like making parking cheaper.”
The association is waiting on Marsh Affinity Group Services, which handles the insurance discounts for SF State alumni, to see how much of the costs it can absorb.
After everything is processed, Affinity will be able to use alumni information to mail them with materials on discounts and other benefits.
“It will cost a lot of money to print the letters and for postage,” said Gonzalez. "The mailings could cost about $50,000, so the association is also looking for other partnerships to absorb some costs."
“There's a bit more research that needs to be done, so we don't have full details to share with you at this time,” said Gonzalez. She said the mailings should start later this month.
“It’s bad because it’s probably going to get [alumni] identity fraud,” said graduating senior Candy Tam, 23, a marketing major. “What if people have old addresses or the wrong information?”
Another student, junior Brian Bruemmer, 22, said he sees how students may be concerned about identity fraud, but thinks that being offered promotions could mean having more options.
“It would be kind of annoying to have your name being sold, but at least you’re getting something in return,” said the economics and accounting major. “If you receive something that you didn’t know about before, it could expand your knowledge.”
Emily Dvoskin, a recent graduate of SF State’s BECA department, didn’t think it was a big deal either.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” said Dvoskin, who was hearing about the law for the first time. “It’s just some more mail.”
Sophomore James Moghaddam said it doesn’t trouble him either.
“I usually don’t pay much attention to (junk mail),” he said the 20-year-old who is majoring in social work.
“Students today are just not concerned with identity theft issues,” said Washington Wong, a graduate student studying business at the University of San Francisco. Wong is an alumnus from San Jose State University.
San Jose State has already informed its alumni about the law, sending out notices by mail. Wong said the notices were deceptive in appearance and not marked as a time-sensitive, or even as an important piece of mail on the outside.
He said students don’t understand identity theft and privacy concerns because they think the disclosure of their information is harmless.
“It’s like a car alarm,” he said. “They go off so often that when it happens, you keep on walking—until it happens to you.”
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