Incoming sophomore class president leaks sensitive personal information of 341 freshmen

May 16, 2018, 2:41 a.m.

The personal information of 341 freshmen — including sexual orientation, political leanings, place of residence and social media handles, all of which were linked to individual names — was publicly accessible for more than one month on incoming sophomore class president Brian Chan’s ’21 personal GitHub account.

Students who filled out the survey were not informed that their survey responses would be made publicly available and accessible on the Internet.

Chan stated that he removed the entire GitHub repository containing students’ personal information after The Daily notified him that it was public. The Daily has since verified that this data is no longer publicly accessible, and withheld publication until Chan took down the data.

The information was searchable by the names of individual students in the data file on GitHub, but it is not known how many people may have accessed or seen the data before it was taken down.

University spokesperson E.J. Miranda, speaking on behalf of Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Community Standards Mark DiPerna, declined to comment on whether this matter constitutes a violation of the University’s Fundamental Standard.

According to the Fundamental Standard, students may be subject to University discipline for “acts of misconduct” including violations of University policies or directives, violations of the law, computer violations and more. The Office of Community Standards’ website states that there is “no standard sanction” for violations of the Fundamental Standard, but that past “infractions have led to sanctions ranging from formal warning and community service to expulsion.”

The survey was part of a “2021 Frosh Matcher” conducted by the Twenty-One, Twenty-Fun slate in their campaign for the sophomore class presidency. Chan clarified that his fellow slate members — Johnathan Bridges ’21, N’Naserri Carew-Johnson ’21 and Celine Foster ’21 — were unaware that any of the information was on the GitHub site.

“While there was no detail on the survey about whether information would be private or public, it was my responsibility that I provide as much privacy as possible when organizing this program for participants,” Chan wrote in a statement to The Daily. “This error belongs to me and me alone.”

Chan expressed contrition for the incident, adding that he intends to personally reach out to the affected individuals. He said that he did not intend for the data to be public, but that he wanted to share his code on the website.

“I want to emphasize that I genuinely and deeply apologize for my oversight,” Chan wrote. “I was not aware the data was also in the folder I uploaded, and I never intended to reveal anyone’s personal information.”

The freshmen could enter the Matcher program the week of April 2. Matches were released on April 7. Slate members hosted a “Marshmallows, Music and Matches” bonfire event on April 8 to encourage participants to meet their matches at Lake Lagunita.

The Matcher was designed “to help YOU find the perfect friendship (or more!) with another 2021er,” according to an email sent during the campaign on April 4 by slate member Bridges.

The 2021 Frosh Matcher survey also included direct inquiries about respondents’ religiosity, Stanford email addresses and personal interests, among other information.

Alongside the database, Chan published a “README” file describing the project as a “personality and interest matcher [he] created for the freshman class at Stanford while campaigning for class president.”

In the same file, he also characterized his code as “very brute force and [including] lots of redundant logic,” adding that he “had to slap it together.”

This matching system was inspired by the Stanford Marriage Pact, an economics project that made headlines in the fall for pairing students using a Nobel Prize-winning matching algorithm.

This controversy is not the first related to the Class of 2021 presidency. Previously, the Class of 2021 presidents’ election results were suspended for 11 days due to an ASSU investigation regarding alleged campaign violations.

Ten days after the election, another slate, FOREVER ’21, dropped out of the race, following allegations that the members violated campaign regulations. The Undergraduate Senate certified Twenty-One, Twenty-Fun as sophomore class presidents during its meeting the next day.

“I recognize that this sophomore election season has been riddled with many complications,” Chan wrote. “I ask everyone to accept my apology and promise that I seek to move forward together with the lessons learned from this at the forefront of my mind.”


This article has been updated with response from University officials and information on Stanford’s Fundamental Standard. 

Contact Erin Woo at erinkwoo ‘at’ and Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’

Erin Woo '21 is The Daily's Vol. 259 Editor-in-Chief. Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, she is studying communications and creative writing at Stanford. She has also reported for The Mercury News and WNYC. Contact her at eic 'at' Foreman '21 was the Vol. 258-59 chief technology officer. Holden was president and editor-in-chief in Vol. 257, executive editor (vice president) in Vol. 256, managing editor of news in Vol. 254 and student business director in Vol. 255.

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