A STUDENT loans company has been forced to apologise after thousands of young people’s email addresses were sent to other customers by mistake.
Student Finance England accidentally released the electronic contact details of about 8,000 new students in what it described as an “administrative error”.
The firm said it had contacted all the students involved to tell them of the blunder and to apologise.
However privacy campaigners said the error had revealed the dangers of organisations storing personal details on electronic databases.
Student Finance England is part of the Student Loans Company, a Government-owned organisation which was set up to provide grants and loans to UK students at university.
Three days ago Student Finance England sent out an email to about 8,000 students who will be starting university in the autumn, reminding them they needed to fill in their grant application forms.
The students affected are the first cohort who will be facing the higher fees – of as much as £9,000-a-year.
The message included the email addresses of all those on the distribution list.
In a statement, the firm said: “We are sorry that a number of student email addresses have been included in an email which has been sent to other customers.
“The information was sent in error and only included email addresses, no other personal student data was shared.
“We have contacted all customers affected to let them know about this issue.
“The integrity and security of student accounts and the protection of personal information is vital to us and we apologise to all of the students involved.”
Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch said: “Just because this information didn’t contain bank details, it doesn’t mean it isn’t useful to people. The fact is that email addresses are increasingly the primary mode of communication for most people. Who knows where it could end up once it is in the public domain?”
Student finance has previously been used by conmen as way of tricking people into revealing personal details.
Last year about 50 students in Yorkshire were believed to have been conned by a suspected email scam which involved their loan payments going missing.
The victims were thought to have responded to a bogus email claiming to be from Sheffield Hallam University informing students that they could qualify for extra financial support. The students were asked to supply personal information to see if they were eligible for bursaries.