Privacy concerns over new student database

Oxford University\’s decision to add students to the University\’s Development and Alumni Relations System database has provoked mixed reactions.

An email was sent out to students on Thursday stating that the University will be adding information on all students to the new database \”in order to facilitate better communication and engagement for the entire Oxford community.\”

However, students wishing to opt out of having their information migrated are given the opportunity to do so before the 4th May.

This data includes name, contact details, date of birth, gender, marital status, nationality, supervisor, college advisor, programme of study and educational history. Academic results will not be transferred.

The Development and Alumni Relations System (DARS) is an organisation devoted to relationship management, aiming to provide a common source of data on all alumni, donors, students and staff.

It is said that details in DARS are held securely, and the data can then be used for networking purposes so that those who have left university can \”connect with other, like-minded alumni\”.

The email sent to students also states that the data may be used by colleges, faculties, departments, administrative units, international offices, recognised alumni societies, and sports and other entities associated with the University.

On the Oxford Alumni website, a number of benefits to inclusion in the DARS database are highlighted. Members will receive an Oxford Alumni Card, providing access to colleges and a range of exclusive discounts, be able to join any one of 170 worldwide alumni networks, and receive regular communication, including a subscription to alumni magazine Oxford Today.

However, concern has arisen among some students over the extent to which their data will be shared.

Ben Southwood, ex-President of the Libertarian Society, remarked that \”this looks like yet another example of the privacy-free age in which we seem to live; instead of giving us the option to opt-in, all Oxford students have to do is overlook an email and they could without their knowledge have various sensitive details published online.\”

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A spokesperson for Oxford University said, \”Alumni will not have access to the information held in DARS about current students and will not be able to use the database as a communication tool.\”

\”Once NetCommunity is launched to all alumni (due in the coming months), people will be able to select their preferences for receiving communications from specific entities. You can opt out of receiving communications at any time by contacting the DARS team.\”