UT directory gives unnecessary access to private information

Mohammad Syed

Do you remember that time you were at that party? You were talking to a sweet girl, and the conversation was going really well. Unfortunately, the party had to come to an end, and the girl had to go home.

“I want to keep talking to her,” you thought.

“Can I have your number?”

She looks at you. Your heart is beating. There’s no reason she wouldn’t give you her number, right?

“Sorry, I’m not interested.”

Ouch. She said no, and you’re without her number. You’re broken.

However, there is a solution. You go to the University’s directory. The website is a student directory, which provides access to information on all the students on campus. You quickly search up her name and find exactly what you want — her phone number.  

That’s not all, though. While you can see her major, her email, her year classification, and even her home address, she goes home with no knowledge of anything that’s going on. In fact, she never knew of this student directory in which all of her information was placed.

Although most situations in our lives don’t necessarily entail romantic failure at college parties, they all do entail the threat of our privacy and safety being compromised. The UT Student Directory is a database which holds the information of each and every student and faculty on campus.

This inherently isn’t a problem, but the method in which it is implemented could be. The problem derives from the fact that there’s no explicit form of consent for this mass release of data. Students often don’t even know that their information is on an open access database. Beyond that, once the students realize that their information is online, they don’t know how to take it off. The main way to do this is to find the website utdirect.utexas.edu/registrar/myinfo/index.WBX, and follow the directions to restrict your info.

The system’s default should be to keep the information private rather than public.

Speaking on a larger issue, as students at a large university such as UT, we unknowingly give up private information without knowing why we’re doing it. Beyond the administration fixing the implementation of the student directory, students have to be more aware of the implications of revealing personal information. Privacy and safety are fundamental rights. We must do what we can to make sure they’re maintained.

Syed is a biochemistry freshman from Houston. You can follow him on Twitter @mohammadsyed.