Customs and Border Protection recruiter unintentionally releases information of 1,300 AU career fair registrants

The agency is investigating the incident, according to a CBP spokesperson

Customs and Border Protection recruiter unintentionally releases information of 1,300 AU career fair registrants

The Mary Graydon Center, pictured in 2016. 

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Connor Reitler's name. It has been updated with the proper spelling.

Simin Ma went to AU’s virtual career fair on Friday in search of a job after graduating this spring. Ma said that during a pandemic, she thought this type of fair was a great opportunity provided by the University’s Career Center. 

Ma, however, didn’t expect her personal information to be sent out by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection recruiter on an Excel sheet to AU students and alumni. She said she wasn’t even applying or interested in any U.S. government agencies since she is an international student from China.

“It was ridiculous and very irresponsible for an organization like CBP to leak any information out,” Ma said. 

After the job and internship fair, CBP recruiter Roman Jacquez sent an email to students and alumni who registered for the fair that contained over 1,300 registrants’ personal information.

AU spokesperson Natasha Abel told The Eagle in an email that AU will “make every effort” to prevent this mistake from happening at the fall job and internship fair.

“While unfortunate, one mistaken email from a recruiter does not change the positive outcomes that the fair had on the AU students and alumni who participated,” Abel said. “We have heard from many attendees who shared their appreciation for the opportunity to connect with so many employers at a difficult time.”

CBP, an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was one of the 111 employers that participated in Friday’s fair, according to the employers list.

Although only 61 registrants expressed interest in the agency, the sheet included whether or not registrants required visa sponsorship and links to 1,114 of their resumes.

The attachment also included many registrants’ cities, states, phone numbers and graduation dates. Soon after sending the email, Jacquez sent a follow-up email to “recall the message.” 

On Monday, Adriana Carranza, a CBP officer, emailed students and alumni to say that including the attachment was unintentional and is “not standard practice.” Carranza also asked them to delete the document.

Students and recent alumni expressed concern about the email, and AU College Democrats created a petition on Wednesday calling for the University to not allow CBP to participate in campus functions.

The job and internship fair took place through CareerEco, a virtual recruiting platform, from 1 to 4 p.m. EST. Before attending the fair, students and alumni registered on the platform by indicating their major, industry, position types they are interested in and whether they required visa sponsorship.

CareerEco did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Erica Cirineo and Connor Reitler, who also graduated from AU in May, said they went to the job fair seeking employment amid the coronavirus pandemic, but they didn’t expect information they disclosed to CareerEco to be available to employers they did not express interest in.

Reitler said that it’s a “two-pronged issue” and wants accountability for whoever disclosed information to CBP. Reitler also wants the agency to release a statement saying that they will not use the information they received against students or alumni.

Reitler and Cirineo said that they didn’t notice the attachment initially, but after it was brought to their attention in follow-up emails, they reviewed the document’s contents.

“I want to know what information of mine is on there,” Cirineo said.

In an email to The Eagle, a CBP spokesperson said that the agency is investigating the incident.

“On May 18, 2020, CBP became aware of an unintentional disclosure of personally identifiable information for a limited number of potential CBP job applicants who participated in a recent virtual career fair,” the spokesperson said. “CBP takes its privacy responsibilities very seriously, and upon learning about this issue CBP noticed and engaged our Office of Professional Responsibility, Chief Privacy Officer, our Cyber Security Operations Center, and respective DHS entities to ensure it was being appropriately investigated and contained. Although investigation continues, the affected individuals have been initially notified and additional steps will be assessed to ensure minimal impact to those affected.”

Gihan Fernando, the Career Center’s executive director, told registrants in an email on Tuesday that the center takes students’ “privacy and confidentiality very seriously” and offered them a chance to discuss the incident with him.

CBP’s email to The Eagle also said that the agency “is taking additional steps to ensure that sensitive information is protected from accidental disclosure.”

“Maintaining public trust and our commitment to the American public is embedded in our Agency values and paramount to our operations,” the spokesperson said.

saustin@theeagleonline.com, kcarolan@theeagleonline.com

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