In an effort to eliminate the potential theft of Social Security numbers when used as a form of identification, this fall all Yale students will instead use their assigned Student Identification Numbers and a new University Personal Identifier.
Compared to a Social Security number, UPI and SID numbers themselves cannot provide access to personal information and are meaningless outside of the University if stolen, Yale Chief Information Officer Philip Long said. While the UPI number will be used mainly for payroll, parking, gym access and swiping at the dining hall, the SID number is mainly used to access academic records, request transcripts and make transactions within the Student Information System.
For members of the class of 2009, both the SID and the UPI are listed on the front of their ID cards. But other classes can access their numbers under the Student Information System’s main menu, director of student information services Jill Carlton said.
“It’s both within higher education and elsewhere that Social Security numbers have been compromised, and the University wanted to get out in front of it before there was an incident here,” Associate Vice President for Student Financial and Administrative Services Ernst Huff said.
Whereas the 9-digit SID number beginning with “9” is assigned to all prospective students during the admissions process, the 8-digit UPI begins with “1” and is only assigned to all matriculated students, faculty, and staff, Long said. While both can only be used in conjunction with a student’s NetID and password or a physical photo ID card, only the UPI is a public number that will be published in the online directory, Carlton said.
“The important thing about the UPI is that it is an identifier that is unique to you as an individual and it doesn’t need to be held private.” Long said. “It’s like your name, it doesn’t give [hackers] any special advantage.”
Yale’s Information Technology Services formed a plan three years ago — which includes the elimination of all paper-based and electronic forms requiring Social Security numbers — to switch over to the new identification system, Long said. Yale has been able to make this transition in the normal course of updating systems and has incurred an estimated $100,000 to buy new ID cards, he said. Although the target date to eliminate all paper-based and electronic forms requiring the Social Security number is set at December, Long said ITS is almost finished with its work.
In the past, a student’s Social Security number was printed on the front of that student’s identification card.
“I think as a society we are much too free with our Social Security numbers. The student ID is printed all over the place, so it doesn’t make sense for the [student’s] Social Security [number] to be on reports,” Interim Dean of Admissions Margit Dahl said.
Though Yale no longer prints the Social Security number on new ID cards, cards printed prior to May 2003 have Social Security numbers embedded into ID barcodes, said Geofrey Bonenberger, the manager of administrative services at Student Financial Services. New ID cards do not include Social Security numbers.
“We will be communicating with the individuals that still have the Social Security number in the barcode and giving them the option of coming in and replacing their card if they chose to,” Bonenberger said.
In March, the Social Security numbers of 98,000 University of California, Berkeley students were stolen during the theft of a campus laptop computer, a UC Berkeley press release reported last spring. According to an August Reuters article, 20 percent of all data breaches that occur nationally take place at universities.