Sep 272005
 
Authors: Elena Ulyanova

Art instructor Lola Logsdon burns her students' scantron tests in her fireplace at home after the score is recorded. The reason has nothing to do with test scores, but because she is concerned about identity theft.

Logsdon is apprehensive of the fact students put their ID numbers, which are currently their social security numbers, on the tests.

"I feel very responsible because those things are in my hands," Logsdon said. "I would have to spend hours shredding those, so what I do is burn them."

Samuel Pfohl, freshman open-option major, recalled a time at Braiden Hall when the computer system was down. In order to receive a meal, students were told to write their social security numbers down on a sheet of paper.

"I wouldn't know how to use someone's SSN if I got it, but there are people out there who do," Pfohl said.

According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), when the federal government created social security numbers (SSN's) in 1936, their sole purpose was to keep track of the amount of money a worker earned. This was part of the social security program that would determine the amount of social security taxes a worker would be credited.

The increased usage of SSN's for multiple purposes creates an extreme threat of identity theft. The Privacy Act of 1974 was created to protect the rights of individuals who use their SSN. The Senate committee stated during this time that the prevalent use of the SSN as universal identification is "one of the most serious manifestations of privacy concerns in the nation."

Patrick Burns, associate vice president of the academic computer network services (ACNS), said CSU began using a computer system in the 1980's that used SSN's as identification numbers because the numbers were not as sensitive at the time.

In the past few years hackers have been able to steal identities electronically, now that SSN's and the Internet are being commonly used,

Colorado passed a law in 2003 requiring colleges and universities to stop using SSN's as a primary form of identification.

"We are taking extreme measures to stop using SSN's as identification for students as soon as possible," Burns said.

William Haid, executive director of enrollment services, said as of fall 2006 all students will have an ID number unique to CSU.

"One of the reasons we want to stop using SSN's is to lower the risk of identity theft. We know we are in a society where ID theft is a threat," Haid said.

CSU is currently involved in a three-year project of converting student records to a new computer system that does not use SSN's.

Other specific precautions also are being taken by CSU to minimize the amount of times a student uses their SSN, such as masking the number when it is on paper or on a Web site. Also, after Oct. 10, students will no longer have the option to access RAMweb by using their PID, they will only be able to use their eID.

Professors have regulations that require them to treat scantron sheets with physical security. However, Haid said nobody is monitoring that on a campus basis and it may be a point of vulnerability.

 

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