U.S. gov’t worker pleads guilty to accessing student files

According to PCWorld, a former employee of the U.S. Department of Education has pleaded guilty to illegally accessing confidential loan files of several hundred college students on an agency database, the U.S. Department of Justice announced. Charlotte M. Robinson, 46, of Dolton, Illinois, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to one count of unauthorized computer access. Robinson, who faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a U.S. $100,000 fine, is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 22. Robinson worked as an employee in the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Division of the Department of Education, where her responsibilities included reviewing and processing student loan complaints within the FSA Office of the Ombudsman, the DOJ said in a press release. Between April 2006 and May 2009, Robinson logged into the agency’s National Student Loan Database System (NSLDS) and repeatedly viewed the confidential college loan records of several hundred people, including musicians, actors, family members and friends, the DOJ said. NSLDS includes borrowers’ names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, types of loans, loan balances and other information. Confidential records maintained in NSLDS are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, and access by Department of Education employees is strictly limited to official government duties, the DOJ said. Robinson was aware that the records were confidential, according to her plea agreement. Her sole purpose for viewing the records was “idle curiosity,” the DOJ said…

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Google rebuts DOJ objections to digital book deal

Google is taking on the DOJ in defending its revised book-scanning settlement.
Google is taking on the DOJ in defending its book-scanning settlement.

Google Inc. wants the digital rights to millions of books badly enough that it’s willing to take on the U.S. Department of Justice in a court battle over whether the internet search leader’s book-scanning ambitions would break antitrust and copyright laws—a battle with important implications for students, teachers, scholars, and researchers.

The stage for the showdown was set Feb. 11 with a Google court filing that defended the $125 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit the company reached with U.S. authors and publishers more than 14 months ago.

Google’s 67-page filing includes a rebuttal to the Justice Department’s belief that the settlement would thwart competition in the book market and undermine copyright law. The brief also tries to overcome a chorus of criticism from several of its rivals, watchdog groups, state governments, and even some foreign governments.…Read More