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State universities may be forced to curb SSN use

By Brett Erickson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 23, 1999
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PHOENIX - Less than a year after the UA illegally released students' Social Security numbers to private enterprises, state lawmakers are attempting to ensure public universities can not violate a student's right to privacy.

Rep. Roberta Voss, R-Glendale, and Sen. David Peterson, R-Mesa, introduced twin bills to the House and Senate that would prohibit universities from using Social Security numbers as students' primary identification.

"This is in the best interest of the privacy of the students," Voss said.

The proposal could create difficulty, however, because the University of Arizona is required by federal law to disclose a students' Social Security number for certain financial aid cases.

The current language in the Senate and House bills could prevent the school from performing some routine activities, said UA lobbyist Greg Fahey.

"We want to work some things out so it will not be as damaging to the universities," said Fahey, who added he was working with Voss to create a viable amendment.

While Voss said she plans amendments for her proposal to clarify confusing language, the intent to reduce the use of Social Security numbers will remain the same. One amendment would give students the option to request that their Social Security numbers be used as an identification number, Voss said.

Both bills were approved by their respective committees earlier this month and now await a vote from the full House and Senate.

The legislation surfaced this session after UA students' Social Security numbers were released to MCI Telecommunications Corp. and Saguaro Credit Union last spring as part of a conversion to the new CatCard identification system.

The Arizona Students' Association, a student group pushing for the bills, went to the Arizona Board of Regents nine months ago to formulate an agreement that would end Social Security number use.

Sam Leyvas, the executive director for ASA, said the group went to the Legislature only after the Regents did not respond to the proposition.

"Their bureaucratic wheels are just slow to turn," he said.

The Regents are expected to take an official position on House bill 2154 and Senate bill 1399 later this week.