School replacing SSN for ID with hand scans

School replacing SSN for ID with hand scans

Posted: Monday, July 28, 2008 10:58 pm

MURFREESBORO(AP) — Some state universities and colleges are changing the custom of using Social Security numbers as student IDs to avoid identity theft. At Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, students and staff members will be identified by a hand scan. The school is assigning new identification numbers for campus ID cards and will scan the right hands of students and staff members. The ID numbers and the scans will be required for access to the school’s newly renovated recreation center. “I remember when I was in college, everything you had had your Social Security number on it,” said Tom Danford, spokesman for the Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees MTSU. “We’re really trying to get away from all that.” Administrators are trying to limit the use of these numbers after security breaches at three state universities this year, including MTSU. The University of Tennessee system replaced Social Security numbers in 2006. “We consider it an extremely poor practice for any school that continues to use the student Social Security number as an identifier,” said Paul Stephens, policy director for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group. “It exposes the student to a very high level of risk.” MTSU stopped printing Social Security numbers on campus ID cards decades ago, but there are some professors who still have them. English assistant professor Mohammed Albakry received his new ID card and had his hand scanned last week. “It’s pretty limited in its use, so I feel good about it,” he said. While only limited to the recreation center now, the scanners could be used in 24-hour computer labs and other areas of the campus, said ID office manager Shawn Alverson. However, personal information is still vulnerable because universities and colleges still need students’ Social Security numbers for federal financial aid registration. A Tennessee Tech employee lost a portable storage drive that held the Social Security numbers of 990 students, which prompted the school to revise its data policies. “If it is a portable device like that, there have to be controls in place,” said university spokeswoman Monica Greppin. “In our registrar’s office, if they do have to use anything that’s portable like that, they make sure at night it is locked in their vault.” But not all MTSU employees are happy with the added security. “I think that’s just a little bit too personal,” said Eveon Corl, an office manager for the student newspaper. “The more things that happen like that, to me that’s just all that much more out there that the government can track you with.” Published in The Messenger 7.28.08

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