X53-7K4. What is this? It could be you. As part of an
ongoing effort to limit the internal use of Social Security
numbers, the university will soon create unique
identification numbers for all Johns Hopkins affiliates so
that they can be identified in a more secure and protected
In the first quarter of 2004, the university, through
the Johns Hopkins Enterprise
Directory, will randomly generate six-character
alphanumeric identifiers for all JHU faculty, staff,
students and alumni.
This unique ID number, or UID, is intended for Johns
Hopkins internal business purposes only and will over time
be integrated into all electronic systems that track and
provide information, including admissions.
Whenever possible, the UID will be used in place of a
person's Social Security number for the purposes of
identification. For example, if two or more students have
the same name, the UID will be used to tell them apart.
Social Security numbers, however, will still be used
as an "official, protected piece of information" for
several university-related purposes, said Michael McCarty,
chief networking officer for Hopkins Information Technology
Services. He said that for financial aid, student
transcript and employee tax identification purposes, Social
Security numbers will continue to be the primary
The measure is in keeping with a Johns Hopkins policy,
outlined in a May 2003 letter, that states "it is necessary
that the university take steps to limit the use of student
SSNs to those circumstances in which no alternative exists
to authenticate identity." The policy letter--signed by
Steven Knapp, provost and senior vice president for
academic affairs, and Estelle A. Fishbein, vice president
and general counsel--went on to say that "to safeguard
against inadvertent disclosure of student SSNs, at the
earliest opportunity the university will introduce a new
unique identification number system to replace its current
reliance on SSNs as student identification numbers for
day-to-day university activities."
The policy came in response to student concerns of
"inappropriate uses" of their Social Security numbers by
members of the administrative staff and faculty, including
the posting of grades by these numbers.
In order to safeguard against identity theft, Social
Security numbers must be protected and treated as private
information, said McCarty, who served on a universitywide
committee that was formed last fall to examine the use of
the numbers. Similarly, a UID will not be used for posting
In addition to the creation of UIDs, the university
has taken other measures to curtail the use of Social
SSNs are no longer used for
identification at Homewood's Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation
Beginning this spring semester,
only the last four characters of the SSN are being used for
general access and reporting to the current student
information system; the practice will be discontinued when
the new student information system is implemented.
The university continues to assess
business processes, paper documents and systems that
utilize the SSN in order to identify and correct instances
in which the number is not appropriately used and
Susan Boswell, dean of student life at Homewood and a
member of the committee that is examining Social Security
number use, said that the identity theft problem isn't
unique to students and everyone is vulnerable.
"It just became too much of a habit, always asking for
a Social Security number, even when it wasn't necessary,"
Boswell said. "I see the creation of these new identifiers
as just another step in the right direction. In terms of
how students will feel about this measure, I'm betting that
this is a much faster solution than they expected in
response to their concerns."
McCarty said that Hopkins ITS personnel have reviewed
the requirements of the forthcoming
to ensure that the generated UIDs can be integrated into
ISIS, a Web-based system to be implemented sometime in
2005, will effectively store in one place the records of
all current full-time and part-time Johns Hopkins students.
HopkinsOne is a Web-based system that will tie together and
streamline selected business functions and is scheduled to
be phased in from 2006 to 2008.
McCarty said that other Web-based communication tools,
such as Web CT, also will migrate to the new UID over the
next several years.
"Over time, these unique identifiers will become
widely used and will be a piece of information that
everyone will want to use and remember," he said. "But
their use will come in stages, and not hit all at once."
The Applied Physics Laboratory already employs a
unique identifier, and efforts were made to ensure that its
numbers would not be replicated.
McCarty said that the process of UID generation will
be tested during the next month. He said that sometime
early in 2004 individuals will log into JHED to find their
new UID number.
"Every person associated with Hopkins will get one" he
said. "And once they do, that number will be with them for