Students at several colleges were able to read each other’s e-mail messages because of a software bug in Google Apps, though the company says the problem has been corrected.
Google officials acknowledged that the mixup affected a handful of students at a handful of colleges, though they sought to downplay the incidents and provided few details. The colleges were transferring students’ accounts from their current servers to Gmail, a process that is spread out over several days. A glitch in that process made e-mail messages available to the wrong users in some cases.
One of the colleges, Brown University, said that 22 students were affected as it was transferring about 200 accounts from Microsoft Exchange to Gmail last Friday. After figuring out that the problem was not internal, Brown officials say they contacted Google on Saturday. On Monday, the company temporarily disabled the accounts, before fixing the problem on Tuesday. A Google spokesman said that the problem has since been solved at all the affected institutions.
Students saw “a few e-mails that wouldn’t be theirs, but we were able to catch it quickly” said Rajen Sheth, a senior product manager for Google Apps. “It was a very, very isolated incident.”
At Brown, an information-technology manager said that some students, when logging in to their e-mail accounts, were able to see another student’s entire in box, while still receiving their own mail. Other students were able to see fewer than 100 messages belonging to another student.
“That’s a big enough problem, as far as we’re concerned,” said Chris Grossi, manager of software distribution and desktop-support field services. He added that the university had successfully transferred 2,000 accounts before it ran into the glitch.