The Office of the Registrar and UT Police Department urged students through Twitter last week to look over their personal information on the UT directory and restrict any details they do not want to be viewable online.
“Having public information out there that is not absolutely necessary, you don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands,” Samantha Stanford, sergeant in criminal investigations for UTPD, said. “People have ulterior motives, you never know what people are going to do with that information.”
The information made available to the public is called directory information, which does not include educational records. Directory information includes a student’s name, local and permanent addresses, email addresses, UT EID, telephone numbers, place of birth, field of study and participation in officially recognized activities and sports.
Last year, the Office of the Registrar and UTPD modified the UT directory to be more mindful of students’ and faculty’s privacy. In April 2017, home addresses and telephone numbers were taken off the online directory for all students and employees, said C. W. Belcher, associate director of Information Technology Services.
“This change was made to provide greater privacy for our campus community,” Belcher said.
Cam Beasley, chief information security officer, said a student’s contact information is considered directory information under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Students may manage what information is made publicly available through a UT Registrar service called “Restrict My Info,” Vice Provost and Registrar Shelby Stanfield said. Stanfield said the information students restrict is dependent upon their personal preferences.
Beasley said the personal information students share on the directory, such as telephone numbers, can attract unwanted phone calls and emails.
“This information could be used to send spam, initiate targeted campaigns against an unsuspecting student, or worse,” Beasley said.
One issue UTPD has encountered before is students receiving calls saying there is a warrant out for their arrest unless they pay the caller money, Stanford said.
“Having your information secure can prevent (fraudulent schemes) from happening,” Stanford said.
While students can restrict the information that appears in the UT directory, Beasley said the University is required to release the information to third parties who make an open records request because of the Texas Public Information Act.
This information includes the home addresses and telephone numbers that were removed from the online directory, Belcher said.
Students should also be mindful of any personal information they may carry around with them, such as medical information or credit cards, Stanford said.
“If you get any personal paperwork from a doctor or the University, make sure you properly shred and discard of it,” Stanford said. “Make sure you don’t carry your social security card on you and make sure you don’t carry any extra bank cards that you don’t need. Only carry the cards you plan to use for the day.”