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Egypt gov’t, private UK firm exposed thousands of children's details online

April 19, 2023 at 3:00 pm

Egyptian students attend a secondary school class at the “Futures Tech” private school in Cairo on October 23, 2013 [Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images]

The Egyptian government and private British company Academic Assessment Ltd have exposed the personal information of tens of thousands of children online putting them in serious harm, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch has said.

The children had taken the Egyptian Scholastic Test, an examination to enter Egyptian universities for secondary school students in Egypt studying within the American education system.

The names, gender, home and email addresses, copies of their passports and more, of over 72,000 children were left open online for at least eight months.

Also online was the university they had applied to, the scores of their test and notes about their behaviour, including whether or not they had attempted to cheat or if they were late.

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“By carelessly exposing children’s private information, the Egyptian government and Academic Assessment put children at risk of serious harm,” said children’s rights and technology researcher and advocate at HRW, Hye Jung Han.

“For months [the Egyptian government] allowed anyone with an internet connection to find out who these children are, where they live and go to school, and how to contact them directly.”

The HRW report noted that having this confidential data online risks exposing these children to identity theft, blackmail and sexual exploitation.

“Children are entitled to special protections for their privacy. The Egyptian government needs to start protecting children and their data privacy, and to legally compel all actors to do the same,” added Han.

Egypt’s Education Ministry and the National Council for Human Rights did not respond to a written request from HRW in February 2023 to fix the data exposure, the rights group said.

While Academic Assessment Ltd did not respond to MEMO’s request for comment.