Manchester, United Kingdom20 November 1991
|Residence||San Francisco, California, US|
|Alma mater||Loughborough University (MEng)|
Stanford Graduate School of Business (MBA)
|Known for||Entrepreneurship; Financial Aid Scandal at Stanford Graduate School of Business|
Early life[edit | edit source]
Allcock was born in Manchester, United Kingdom and attended Altrincham Preparatory School. He later attended The Manchester Grammar School, the largest independent day school for boys in the United Kingdom from age 11 through 18, achieving 10 A*s at GCSE and two A*s and 2As at A-Level.
Career[edit | edit source]
At age 13, he started his first business selling $100,000s of boutique gaming computers, and was later honored with the 'Most Employable Young Person' award at the 2012 Young Masters Awards. He has had founded a number of businesses, including a management consultancy and enterprise in the bitcoin sector.
Allcock was scouted by a recruiter at Google for a prestigious internship, coinciding with the London 2012 Summer Olympics, where his work on overhauling the company's sales forecasting system generated millions of dollars in efficiency savings and led to being named 'Best Intern' at the 2013 National Internship and Placement Awards.
Allcock graduated from Loughborough University in 2014 with a Master of Engineering degree in Mechanical Engineering, achieving the highest honors classification of 'First Class, with Honors'. Allcock was appointed as a Fellow of both the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs and Institute of Leadership & Management in 2016, and is a Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and Chartered Management Institute.
Stanford University[edit | edit source]
Prior to graduating from Loughborough University, Allcock gained admission to Stanford University's prestigious MBA program at Stanford Graduate School of Business having just turned 22 two weeks prior. He was invited to join the MBA Class of 2018 alongside best-selling author Nina Vasan, gold medal Olympian Jessica Steffens and NASCAR's Paulie Harraka, matriculating in 2016.
While at Stanford, Allcock was elected to the Stanford Graduate Council, GSB Academic Committee, GSB Technology and Communication Committee, served on the Stanford Academic Council Committee, the Stanford IT Services Advisory Committee and the GSB International Advisory Group. He was also an academic advisor, peer tutor, and a member of the High Tech, Entrepreneur, Management Consulting, and Blockchain clubs.
Allcock was the longest-term resident of Highland Hall, a graduate hall of residence at Stanford University, prior to it being renamed 'Jack McDonald Hall' in memorial of the late Jack McDonald after his passing in 2018.
Data Exposure[edit | edit source]
Stanford Graduate School of Business has just one computer laboratory named RAIL, equipped with just 24 workstations available for teaching its 1,000 students. As such, students are paired on all assignments and must transfer their in-class work to their partner after classes are over. Given the high demand for the lab’s facilities, it is timetabled back to back and so there often isn’t time to do this prior to being displaced.
In February of 2017, after a class, Allcock sought to retrieve his files from his school network drive, and utilized the School’s instructions to map the drive. A batch file was recommended, which automatically mapped all networked drives at the school as it was used for staff, faculty and students. To his surprise, Allcock found himself able to access not only his own personal drive, but two shared temporary working drives as well as Stanford Graduate School of Business’s main internal departmental drive.
Allcock discovered that nearly every directory on this drive was accessible to any student, faculty member or staff member of Stanford Graduate School of Business, and promptly reported the exposure to Jack Edwards, then Director of Financial Aid. Most of the records were removed within an hour of his meeting with Edwards, however the 14TB and 700,000 files had reportedly already been exposed for more than a decade.
It was later discovered that one file included in the data exposure included personal information on 10,000 non-teaching staff at Stanford University, including salary information, names, birthdates and Social Security numbers. Disclosure notifications were sent to affected staff and a copy was recorded with the California Office of the Attorney General.
Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business, Jonathan Levin, who says he received the student’s report in October 2017, disclosed that the School has hired a data forensics firm to determine what other files were improperly stored and accessible over time. In a statement released on November 17th, 2017, he wrote: “Whatever we learn further, there is no excuse for this compromise of privacy and security, and I intend to do everything possible to ensure that it does not happen in the future.” As of January 2019, no report has been disclosed.
Dean Levin says the School is still in the process of investigating and addressing both the data breach and its system of financial aid. “Although it is likely to take some time to resolve them, I feel it is important from the start to communicate in an open and forthright way, and I expect to communicate again as we move forward,” he wrote.
Statements By School[edit | edit source]
Stanford University noted that this particularly embarrassing file was accidentally made available on a shared server June 2016 and was removed after Allcock’s disclosure by early March.
In a statement, Randy Livingston, Vice President for Business Affairs at Stanford said: “We extend the deepest apology to the employees and former Stanford students who expected that their personal information would be treated with the greatest care by campus offices. This is absolutely unacceptable. Our community expects that we will keep their personal information confidential and secure, and we have failed to do so. The proliferation of file-sharing platforms requires that everyone be vigilant in assuring that confidential information remains secure, old files are deleted and permissions are regularly reviewed.”
The statement did not acknowledge that it had only learned about the data exposure due to Allcock’s reporting in February 2017, although it did confirm that while the GSB IT team had “recognized there was a permission problem and promptly secured all of the files on the drive, they failed to understand the scope of the exposure and did not report it to the GSB dean or relevant university offices for further investigation.” This would once again be unofficially credited to Allcock’s meeting with Dean Levin in October 2017.
Stanford University was criticized for their misleading claim that “the university does not have any direct evidence that personally identifiable information was accessed from the GSB file” when in fact there were no audit logs available on the network drive. As such, the school had no way of knowing if the files were accessed or not.
As of August 2018, Stanford University has made just two public disclosures to the California Office of the Attorney General, covering just a handful of files from the 700,000 reportedly leaked. It is unclear why the other files including confidential data have not been disclosed.
Firing of CIO[edit | edit source]
Dean Levin fired his Chief Information Officer Ranga Jayaraman weeks after Allcock handed in his report, citing Jayaraman’s failure to notify him or Stanford University after Allcock alerted the school in February 2017.
In an interview with Poets & Quants, Jayaraman said: “Stanford has been wonderful to me and things just happen, this goes with the territory. There are times when one has to be held accountable, and I am totally fine with it.”
Jayaraman continued: “At the time this happened in February, we did all of the go-fix-the-problem steps. We made an assessment in terms of what had happened and what actions needed to be taken to fix it and prevent this from happening again. What I failed to do was ask one question: ‘What could have been the nature of the content that was in these files and folders and is there super sensitive content that would trigger additional actions like disclosure... I take full responsibility for the failure to recognize the scope and nature of the … data exposure and report it in a timely manner to the dean and the University Information Security and Privacy Office. I would like to express my most sincere apologies … to anyone whose personal information might potentially have been compromised.”
Financial Aid Scandal[edit | edit source]
Allcock was already dubious of the school’s official line of a ‘need-based only’ financial aid system, having compared financial aid letters with a classmate in late 2016, who – despite having near identical incoming finances, was receiving 50% more in scholarships. Correspondence with the Financial Aid Office confirmed Allcock’s award and formula used was “correct,” and challenged Allcock to report any student that was receiving more, so money could be taken away from them. Allcock declined.
By chance, the first file Allcock had tested the networked directory with, happened to be a deidentified dataset of the last ten years-worth of financial aid awards at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Financial aid awards were immediately visible that were impossibly high, given the reported formula that determined awards.
Allcock met with Director of Financial Aid Jack Edwards shortly after discovering the data, and confronted him with the document. Edwards denied any knowledge of such high financial aid awards and questioned the source of the data. Allcock provided Edwards with a printout of the file, who continued to deny the existence of such awards.
Unphased, Allcock invested 1,500 hours analyzing the data and compiled a 378-page report detailing his findings.
Internal Disclosure[edit | edit source]
On completion of the report, Allcock’s first action was to hand in paper copies of the report during an October 2017 meeting with Dean Levin and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Kirsten Moss. Allcock further handed in copies of the report to two senior faculty, the Chief Privacy Officer and Chief Information Officer at Stanford University. No public release was made by Allcock, and only these administrators received reports.
Allcock, who advocated for making a joint statement at a later date when both parties could be certain of the current and historical systems, Stanford’s legal team had been consulted and only once a plan to move forward was created, was left unnamed in the statement. Dean Levin cited that he “could not condone [Allcock’s] actions” by naming him or participating in a joint statement and against advice, instead making an individual public statement addressed to all students, staff, faculty, alumni, hosted on the school’s website and externally blasted to the press.
Levin’s statement was worded such that it made out that Allcock was claiming the school was being discriminatory rather than admitting it was. While commenting on the report’s content, Levin wrote “for instance, in one particular sample, it finds that women appear to have received larger awards. The report argues that Stanford GSB’s communications about the financial aid process have not clearly explained how or why students might have received these varying amounts of fellowship aid.”
While it would later become known that both Dean Levin and the school had already known and were supportive of the discriminatory nature of the system, Levin’s statement was seen by Allcock as both provocative and an unfair characterization. Allcock disputed that the report ‘argued’ anything, and instead it was the statistical analysis [as well as reality] that suggested the school was discriminating.
Report Findings[edit | edit source]
In an email sent internally to classmates, Allcock clarified that “GSB fellowships were only in part determined by a student’s financial need despite publicly repeated claims to the contrary. The GSB has misrepresented and advertised its financial aid system to the detriment of students who make tangible financial decisions on the basis of these representations. Students with identical financial situations receive vastly different fellowships awards and without any knowledge can graduate with up to an additional $80,000 of debt…”
Allcock’s analysis had showed that Stanford had routinely granted fellowship money to students who had little to no financial need, favoring on average, students who were female, domestic and those from high paying industries, despite on having larger savings than students who received less financial support. His analysis also found what he termed “systemic biases against international students… This is inconsistent with a need-based financial aid system.”
In the report, Allcock maintains that Stanford may be vulnerable to a lawsuit over its practices and lays out potential remedies that he believes the school should follow to mitigate its exposure to either external investigation by a government body - such as the Department of Education during a Title IX Investigation or the Department of Justice - or private lawsuit. Allcock details that the school may have exposed itself to a liability that could exceed $110 million due to “misrepresenting the financial aid available to students while also discriminating on the basis of gender.”
Allcock wrote that he made the report to “hopefully make a positive difference on someone. It took far longer than expected — 10 months of my life, 1,500 hours I didn’t have and accompanied by more misery than I care to admit—because I was desperately searching for my mistake and why I could be wrong. I couldn’t find it.”
Further Statements By School[edit | edit source]
Though Stanford Graduate School of Business insisted that it did not grant fellowship awards on the basis of merit, Dean Jonathan Levin wrote that the school “has offered additional fellowship awards to candidates whose biographies make them particularly compelling and competitive in trying to attract a diverse class.”
In a statement on December 7th, 2018, Dean Jonathan Levin pledged to hire an external firm to "arrange for an external review of our historical financial aid practises, including how Stanford GSB's process evolved in relation to other schools." As of December 2018, no report has been released.
Outcome[edit | edit source]
As a result of the scandal, Stanford Graduate School of Business pledged to operate a purely need-based financial aid system, and tested this with the MBA Class of 2019. It was found that offering students more money than they either expected or required has little to no impact on their decision to accept their admission offers or not, which was highlighted in the Class of 2019’s near identical class profile. The report titled 'Inconsistencies in Need-Based Financial Aid' has not been made publicly available.
Subsequently in late 2018, Stanford announced a chance in policy to commit to a permanent, need-based only financial aid system [as always advertised] for the MBA Class of 2020 onward. Subsequently, Stanford Graduate School of Business is now able to offer significantly more financial aid to students from deprived backgrounds, and low-income countries where it would have previously been financially unviable for them to attend.
Allcock graduated from Stanford with an MBA in June 2018, and was nominated by his peers as a finalist for the Ernest C. Arbuckle Award. The Ernest C. Arbuckle Award is presented to a second-year MBA student who, by his or her active participation, initiative, leadership and personal integrity, is judged as having contributed most to the fulfillment of the goals of Stanford GSB in his or her actions both within school and society.
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[edit | edit source]
Category:1991 births Category:Living people Category:People educated at Manchester Grammar School Category:Stanford Graduate School of Business alumni Category:Stanford MBA Class of 2018 Category:Alumni of Loughborough University Category:Lists of British people Category:British investigative journalists
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