Privacy act stops Social Security as form of ID

Derek Lenehan

Professors can no longer post grades publicly or online using part of students’ Social Security numbers as a means of identification, as of the new semester.

The change is the result of an investigation into the Hunter College of the City University of New York by the U.S. Department of Education.

The complaint that started the investigation was reported as a violation under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA is described at the Department of Education’s Web site as “a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.”

Greg Seibert, director of security and compliance, said the changes will be immediate.

“Faculty members did not want to cause students any harm by using these records. In the past, full Social Security numbers were used, but that was too much, so we cut it down to partial numbers, but now that is too much,” he said. “Kent State was one of many schools using this system.”

In an e-mail to faculty members, University Registrar Susan Cole notified staff of the need to change grade posting.

“I am quite happy to report that no full Social Security numbers were encountered during the last scan of our Web pages. However, several pages did use partial social security numbers and other publicly known identifiers,” she wrote. “I suggest all faculty who wish to post grades on the Web or on the wall do so by issuing identification numbers or codes to all students in their classes as alternative identifiers to Social Security numbers … or any of the above mentioned publicly known identifiers.”

Cole wrote, in a second e-mail, that any students with questions or concerns about how their information is used or displayed can contact the Office of the University Registrar.

A message was sent to students through FlashLine, providing directions to reach a summary of their rights under FERPA.

Contact academic affairs reporter Derek Lenehan at [email protected].