Privacy Notes

Why SSNs Are Needed

This server will request your Social Security Number only once, when you first open an account. This is necessary because we need to authenticate you as an authorized Brandeis user by associating you uniquely with a specific record in university student and employee databases.

We realize that using SSNs for identification and indexing, as is currently done internally in every university administrative database, is not a good idea. One of the goals of this directory is to generate new credentials that can replace your SSN as a universal identifier. But, we must bootstrap with something.

Protecting SSNs in Transit

This server accepts requests for sensitive web pages only if the connection is encrypted. In addition, you will be warned if your web browser supports only the very weak encryption that the United States government allows Americans to sell worldwide, and advised on how to import strong encryption software from countries that do not place such restrictions on their citizens. (Update October 2000: These export restrictions no longer apply. Netscape and Microsoft now distribute full-strength encryption worldwide.)

SSNs Are Not Stored

The open directory server never stores your SSN, not even encrypted. Instead, we compute and store a MD5 hash function MAC of your SSN and a secret key as exported from the closed HR and Registrar databases. We can find and authenticate you by comparing the hash of the SSN you enter. Even if someone broke into or stole the server, they would find no SSNs.

How to Refuse to Provide SSN

If you are a student, visit the Registrar in Kutz in person with two forms of ID and request a change in student ID. It will take time and paperwork, but it is possible to get another number assigned to you. If the first person you talk to tells you otherwise, ask to speak to someone else. Please be understanding of the workload involved.

If you are a staff/faculty member on regular payroll, the university needs to use your SSN for tax purposes. You cannot use another number. See above for the precautions we take with this information.

If you have a non-payroll appointment, you may decline to provide SSN by entering 000 00 0000 (all zeroes) in the SSN/ID number field. Brandeis will go through a special sponsorship process and generate a random number for you.

Please do not make up some other number.

SSNs Will Not Be Used in the Future

When you first authenticate to this server, a unique numerical UNetID is assigned to you. The university will still need to know your SSN for tax and financial aid purposes, but in the future the SSN may a subordinate field in a database keyed on the UNetID. Databases and departments that do not deal specifically with taxes and financial aid will never need to see your SSN. It will take some time for us to get there, of course.