Saturday, May 28, 2005

Stanford and the B-School "Hackers"

There was a big hue-and-cry raised a couple of months ago when someone realized that the admissions decisions made by a number of Business schools was actually available on the official web site although they weren't supposed to be public; all one had to do to get at the results was to make a slight change in the URL that led to the personalized page of the applicant. (See The Volokh Conspiracy for a full account.) When a number of people, quite naturally, decided to check out their admission status, Harvard and MIT decided to get on their high horse and denied admission to all these people citing a breach of "ethics". At that time, I felt proud of the Stanford B-school for showing a little more wisdom (or a little less idiocy) when they decided that they would not reject these applicants outright, but instead required them to send an explanation of their conduct.

Now, it turns out all these candidates were eventually rejected (SF Chronicle) with the dean stating that none of them offered a "compelling explanation". What would constitute a compelling explanation, I wonder? How about "curiosity"? Or did they expect someone to claim that they were held at gunpoint and forced to check out the web site?

If I were one of those rejected students, I would console myself by asking why I'd want to join an institution that lacks the wisdom to acknowledge its own egregious failure in safeguarding information that it considered private, and compounds its failure by blaming my "unethical" actions that consisted of typing in an official web site URL to gain access to information that I was reasonably entitled to anyway. Since when did those actions constitute "hacking"? I hope someone sees fit to sue, if only to publicize this story further!


Anonymous Sriram said...

This might sound crazy but I wonder why none of them claimed that they did not check the results themselves and that their spouse/ daughter/ sister/ brother/grandmother checked it! Ofcourse thats a silly answer but silly questions get silly answers!

6/07/2005 12:24 AM  

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