University directories publish too much info

Private information about students shouldn’t be readily available online.

According to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 , universities have the right to publish their studentsâÄô directory information as long as the school notifies the students. However, just because Columbia has the right to do so does not mean that it should. The university should change its default online directory format so that it automatically withholds studentsâÄô more personal information, specifically their addresses of residence. ColumbiaâÄôs online directory lists, by default, each studentâÄôs name, school affiliation and e-mail address. It also lists addresses and phone numbers. The directory allows the public to search for students by name, UNI or e-mail address, while anyone with a UNI can browse an alphabetical index of directory listings. For students who live in Columbia residence halls that use Columbia University IDs as dormitory room keys, the directory can have potentially dangerous consequences. If one of these residents loses his CUID, anyone with a UNI who finds the card can obtain that studentâÄôs room number and potentially gain access to his dormitory room. ColumbiaâÄôs default online directory listings should include only absolutely necessary information: studentsâÄô names and e-mail addresses. Of course, if a student wishes to publish more personal information, the option should still be available. The Registrar should simplify the means by which students can choose to withhold their personal information, whether it is one piece of information or the entire directory listing. As it stands, too few students are aware of this option. While students appreciate the closeness a campus community provides, a line must be drawn to ensure studentsâÄô privacy and protection. Private information should not be made public knowledge by default. This editorial, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Columbia Daily Spectator at Columbia University. Please send comments to [email protected].