Temple University adopted a new policy that will eliminate the use of social security numbers as the primary means of identification for students, staff and faculty.
The “Elimination of the Social Security Number as Primary Identifier Project” is slated for completion in September 2005.
A new nine-digit number, which will be known as the TUId, will be issued to students, staff and faculty no later than September 2005. Current identification cards will be replaced with newly designed ones; new pictures will not be required for students. Faculty and staff have the option to take new pictures.
The Social Security Usage Policy (04.75.11) states that “the use of the social security number as a primary identifier for Temple-related individuals shall be avoided, except as required by law or as required by practical necessity as approved by the President or other designated University officers.”
According to Vice President of Computer and Information Services, Timothy O’Rourke, the new Social Security Usage Policy was enacted to protect students’ identities and personal information.
In addition, the new policy seeks to lower the risks associated with the usage of social security numbers such as identity theft. Barbara Dolhansky, Associate Vice President of Computer and Information Services, suggested that the new policy lowers the risks of the circulation, distribution and communication of social security numbers.
“The communication of the numbers gets cut down immediately. It eliminates it from a lot of correspondence,” Dolhansky said.
The new policy, however, does not completely prohibit the use of social security numbers.
“We’re not going to totally eliminate the use of social security numbers,” O’Rourke said. “We still need to collect social security numbers for tax purposes and for other federal requirements such as for financial aid.”
Project Manager Brian Forman said that the new policy will affect two of Temple’s main systems: the Integrated Student Information System and the Human Resources System.
“It will subsequently affect other systems that interface those systems,” Forman said.
In order to meet the requirements of the policy, Computer Services will have to implement various changes to the university’s computing systems that will affect how students, staff and faculty use such systems as TUPortal and TUMail.
The elimination of social security numbers as primary identifiers for individuals in computer systems has become a national trend. In 2003, students hacked into the computer systems at the University of Kansas and the University of Texas and were able to steal student information that included social security numbers.
The issue has gained the attention of Congress in the House of Representatives and has allowed such states as Arizona and California to pass statutes that require the elimination of social security numbers as the primary identifiers in computer systems.
“Temple is trying to be proactive so that we will be a step ahead,” Dolhansky said.
Area schools such as Drexel and Penn State have adopted similar policies.
Charmie Snetter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.