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George Washington University apologizes for tracking locations of students, faculty

George Washington University has apologized for its failure to notify students, faculty and staff of a data analytics pilot program that monitored their locations.

Though the data was not individualized, interim President Mark Wrighton, who started at the university last month, sent a letter to the campus community on Friday regarding the project.

He said the program used data from Cisco Wi-Fi points at the university’s campuses “to determine density and use of buildings by students, faculty, and staff in the aggregate in order to assess how this could help inform the Safety and Facilities team’s operational priorities.”

Wrighton added the technology could have tracked individualized data and locations but that it was not used to do that during the project, which began last fall and concluded in December. 

“I want to be clear that even though the technical capacity may exist to track individuals across our campus, such a capacity was not utilized nor contemplated in this pilot and no individualized data tracking or movement across our campus was ever shared,” he wrote.

“Regrettably, however, the university neglected to inform members of our community in advance of commencing this analytical project,” he added.

He said that using such data “raises important privacy considerations and potential breaches of expected ethical norms in higher education.”

University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said in an email to The Washington Post that any data collected as part of the project that had not already been destroyed would be soon.

In an interview on Saturday, Nosal did not say who approved the project and whether that person was still at the university, the Post added.

The Hill has reached out to George Washington University for comment.

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