US gov't worker pleads guilty to accessing student files

The Illinois woman pleads guilty to one count of unauthorized computer access

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 US$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.

NSLDS includes a warning when Department of Education workers access the database. "This is a Government system, to be used by authorized personnel only," the warning says. "If you use this computer system, you should understand that all activities may be monitored and recorded by automated processes and/or by Government personnel."

Since 2008, the DOJ has also prosecuted 10 employees or contractors at the U.S. Department of State for accessing confidential passport files through an agency database. In early 2008, the State Department reported that employees there had accessed the passport files of three presidential candidates, including then-Senator Barack Obama.

An internal investigation found that State Department employees had viewed the passport files of hundreds of people.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags U.S. Department of JusticeGovernment use of ITsecurityU.S. District Court for the Northern District of IllinoisCharlotte M. RobinsonU.S. Department of StategovernmentBarack ObamaU.S. Department of Educationprivacy

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?