Following Thefts of Student Social Security Numbers, ACLU Launches Investigation Into Kent State University's Privacy Policy

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
October 17, 2005 12:00 am

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KENT, OH – After two separate incidents in which computers containing the Social Security Numbers of more than 100,000 students and faculty at Kent State University were stolen, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today sent a letter and public records request to university officials seeking information about the incidents.

“With identity theft becoming a widespread problem and personal information so easy to obtain through advanced technology, the university must make greater efforts to ensure that students and faculty retain their privacy,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeff Gamso.

The university’s current policy allows Social Security Numbers to be used to identify and track students and faculty for various purposes including payroll and grade assignments. Following each theft, the university administration promised community members that it would change its methods in order to protect and minimize the use of Social Security numbers, yet no significant reforms appear to have been made, the ACLU said.

“”The purpose of our investigation,”” Gamso explained, “”is to determine how serious Kent State University’s commitment is to safeguarding student and faculty privacy and what steps, if any, the university has taken in this regard.””

According to press reports, the first theft took place in June 2005, when a laptop computer used by a human resources employee that contained more than 1,400 Social Security Numbers was taken from the employee’s car. In August 2005, four more computers and six monitors were stolen from a campus office. The news reports state that the computers contained the personal information of at least 100,000 students, alumni, faculty and staff dating back to 2000.

The ACLU’s letter is online at: www.aclu.org/Privacy/Privacy.cfm?ID=19267&c=253

The ACLU’s public records request is online at: www.aclu.org/Privacy/Privacy.cfm?ID=19269&c=253

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