01 February, 2003
When asked why the campus elected to begin the process to remove the social security number (SSN) from the University of Oregon’s campus cards, Senior Analyst and Project Manager Jim Bohle reports emphatically, “Privacy protection.”
But as the campus has found, printing of the SSN on the ID card is only one in a long series of places that the SSN exists on campus. “We are making a campus-wide effort to limit the eyes that can see it,” says Mr. Bohle. To accomplish this, he adds, “you have to go through the system and begin to close down the places where the SSN is visible, then discourage staff from using it as the identifier.”
Easier said than done. UO is working through their SCT Banner system, as well as a host of other systems, to identify where the SSN is used. Mr. Bohle notes that prior to the start of this effort, its use was pervasive. The project team recognized that it was impractical to actually eliminate it from the system.
Instead they are working to hide the number, except when truly required, so that it does not display on screens, forms, or other areas. “In certain offices, staff will still be able to use it to pull up a student’s record, but the SSN won’t display,” he adds.
Mr. Bohle anticipates that UO will still collect SSNs for 80-90% of its students. This is because the SSN is utilized for many financial aid programs, student employment, and federal health programs. The efforts to use it only when required and restrict its visibility to only those who must see it is where the protection is created.
According to Mr. Bohle the reissuance is going smoothly. All cardholders will have their SSN replaced on the card and in the campus systems by a nine-digit number that begins with 950. This 950 prefix was selected because the Social Security Administration has never used this prefix for the issuance of SSNs.
The campus has long used the 950 prefix numbers as a means to identify potential students who have applied but not yet officially become students. The SCT Banner system generates and assigns the 950 number that will now, be expanded to include all of the UO’s populations.
Mr. Bohle believes that UO was wise to begin the process of its own volition. He feels that it is only a matter of time before legislation will force this migration, and the proactive nature has enabled them to take a phased approach.