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Lawmakers push to eliminate Social Security Numbers from Florida campuses

Florida has become the latest state attempting to severely limit the use of social security numbers on college campuses. The state’s Legislature, in session until the end of April, has bills pending in the House and Senate. Both bills are moving rapidly and are likely to pass. In addition, Gov. Jeb Bush, given his history of privacy concerns and the fact that one of his task forces several years ago recommended limited use of social security numbers, is likely to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

The bill would prohibit state universities or community colleges from using a student’s social security number to identify a student, except for purposes of employment, financial aid, research, assessment, accountability, transcripts, or as otherwise required by state or federal law.   In addition, the bill prohibits displaying a student’s social security number, printing a student’s social security number on any identification document issued by the institution-including the campus ID card, or requiring a student to use his or her social security number on the Internet unless sufficient security precautions are used.

It also requires each state university or community college to develop a plan for implementation by July 1, 2005. This plan must include provisions for educating staff on the proper uses of social security numbers. An affected student may petition a circuit court for an order directing a university or community college cease the improper use of a social security number or to implement a plan to prevent the improper use of a social security number.

The state already has a law exempting documents held by a state agency from the state’s liberal public records law.

According to a staff analysis of the bill, the University of Florida, the University of North Florida and Florida International University have begun moving away from their reliance on social security numbers. The University of Florida reported it took more than a year to implement the change-over to an eight-digit number and cost the university   $5 million. The Department of Education estimates it could cost each of Florida’s 28 community colleges $100,000 to $250,000 to comply with the proposed law.
The same analysis points out that Arizona requires universities to assign an identification number to a student that is not the SSN, while Virginia forbids the use of the SSN on a student’s identification card and West Virginia has banned the public display of the SSN. Washington, New York, and Illinois all have laws similar to what Florida legislators are trying to pass.

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