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Updated 11:30 AM December 6, 2004




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New software feature helps protect identity

A new feature in the M-Pathways system offers increased protection for student and employee personal data, particularly of Social Security numbers and birthdates.

Michigan Administrative Information Services (MAIS) staff members have put in place new software that will mask all but a few numbers of a person's identifying data, while allowing Human Resources and student services offices that need such numbers to conduct business to continue to have access to them.

"This measure will help to protect the data from unnecessary exposure and prevent misuse of information, such as identity fraud and security breaches," Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, said in a memo to campus administrators. "This is one step in the University's ongoing effort toward maintaining a safe and secure information technology environment for its employees and students."

M-Pathways is the University's integrated information technology system for managing financial information, including asset management and procurement; hospital inventory; student admissions, records, financial aid, and curriculum and degree requirements; and human resource information, including payroll and benefits, among others. The masking feature affects only Human Resources and Student Administration systems where such personal data is used.

As of Nov. 17, Social Security numbers appear in most places in M-Pathways with only four numbers visible, e.g. XXX-XX-2222, and birthdates are shown with the year eliminated, e.g. 02/02/XX. A limited number of staff members whose jobs require the personal data—such as benefit administrators, financial aid officers and payroll staff, or people who need to complete a search/match process—still have access to the complete numbers.

"The goal is to increase privacy without impeding University business," said Laurita Thomas, associate vice president and chief human resource officer. "Extensive efforts have been taken to educate key customers about the new feature and to work with them to establish appropriate access for impacted staff."

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