Outlaws Use of SSN's
action by the Arizona legislature has all but eliminated a once common
method of posting grades.
College and university instructors have long posted examination and final
grades of their students by associating such grades with all or part of
the students' social security numbers. Such practice, however, is now
illegal. Under SB 1399, officials of a university or community college
in Arizona may not publicly display any four or more numbers of a student's
social security number. This prohibition extends beyond the traditional
practice of posting grades on an instructor's office door.
The new act also prohibits displaying part or all of a student's social
security number "on any Internet site maintained by the community
college or community college district or any other publicly accessible
document for any purpose."
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act--the Federal statute that
protects the confidentiality of education records--has long prohibited
the public display of a student's grades in such a manner as to allow
the student to be identified.
Faculty have typically--in deference to FERPA--used several digits of
their students' social security numbers as a way of posting grades without
revealing those students' identities. The practice has long been ill advised,
however, chiefly because of the possibility that social security numbers
might be discovered through other means. The preferred practice has been
to assign internal identifying numbers to students, or simply cease the
practice of posting altogether.
Now, with the enactment of SB 1399, faculty at Arizona community colleges
should refrain from using any portion of a student's social security number
to display information about the student--whether it be on an office door
or a Web site.
in the Fall 1999 Edition of In Brief