EDITORIAL: Social Security issues plague university

University computing officials said recently that abandoning the Social Security number as identification may not lead to better security.

Dennis Kramer, director of University Computing Services, said most security breaches are caused by carelessness, and that an alternate number would be as easy to steal as a Social Security number.

"It's just going to be another number to remember," he said. "(Students) will end up writing it down and leaving it somewhere.

"Security is very high on our list of things to do everyday, (but) no system is 100 percent foolproof."

But there is a world of difference between stealing a student identification number, and stealing a Social Security number. With a student ID number, someone could steal your dining hall lunch, check out library books under your name, and sign you up for classes you don't want.

With a Social Security number, someone could steal your identity, access your bank records, and open new lines of credit.

Ball State says an outdated computer system makes it difficult to change the current system. But federal law restricting public agencies from using Social Security numbers as identification passed 17 years ago. That's a long time to work off the same computer system.

The Social Security office -- along with nearly every privacy advocacy group -- says Social Security numbers must not be used as identification. But Ball State's current system makes it a necessity for nearly every student.

Ball State gives students the option of using an alternate identification number. But to do so, the student would have to forgo campus employment and financial aid, things very few students are wealthy enough to do without.

Vice President for Student Affairs Douglas McConkey said the administration's senior staff has yet to discuss the identification system. This is something the senior staff must do, as soon as possible. It's a conversation that's already 17 years too late.


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