Student emails accessible to all

By Tia Rinehart

In a recent article concerning the accessibility of student email addresses, questions were raised regarding the methods companies use to obtain student information.

Students can request their directory information be kept private. However, unless they send the request, it could legally be accessed by anyone, said David Crain, assistant provost and chief information officer. He said retrieving student emails could be done in different ways. The emails are considered “directory information” and are legally accessible by anyone, he said.

“Local businesses can access student email two different ways,” he said. “First, they can simply get them from the People Finder tool on SIU’s website. There are even automated software tools that help extract email addresses from websites.” Crain said he is unsure of the names of the software tools, but typing the words “email harvester” or “email spiders” into a search engine can find them.


“Second, they can make a Freedom of Information Act request to the University,” he said. “And the university has to provide them with this information under state law.”

Two companies students received emails from, and, declined to comment on how they access emails. Representatives did not respond to requests for interviews.

Crain said SIU condensed its email from 35 systems to one: Microsoft Outlook.

He said there should be no difference in spam emails from the old email system and the new email system.

“All of the emails were already on the website so the change to a new system would not impact how easy they are to get,” he said.

Schyler Stramaglia, a junior from Bloomingdale studying occupational therapy, said spam emails to her account occurred more frequently after the transfer to Outlook.

“I don’t even know what half of my emails are,” she said.


Vilda Konopulli, a freshman from Addison studying business marketing, said she believes there has been an increase in spam as well.

“I am always getting spam offering me jobs that will earn me ridiculous amounts of money,” she said.

Crain said there should be no difference in the amount of spam mail. Students are assuming it is because of the move to Outlook when it is just an overall increase in spam to universities, he said.

Every email system uses their own spam filter and if you compare spam percentages, the old and new systems are roughly the same, Crain said.

“Spam kind of ebbs and flows across the Internet and there will be times when we get a lot more spam,” he said. “In fact, one of the things we’ve noticed just this academic year is we have been getting a lot more targeted toward Southern Illinois University and our students but that’s happening to every university.”

Crain said SIU’s policy on directory information is online at

Tia Rinehart can be reached at [email protected]@TiaRinehart_DE or 536-3311 ext. 254.