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On Privacy Practices at Penn

February 22, 2002

Dear Penn Staff Member:

We are writing to address an important topic that affects all of our lives, and the lives of the greater Penn community--that is, privacy. As University administrators, handling a wide array of personal information about students, faculty, staff, patients, and others, we must be vigilant in ensuring that such information is protected from unauthorized access, unauthorized disclosure, and misuse.

Today, we ask you to examine your office's information practices and to make sure that you are responsibly maintaining and using personal information. Special care should be taken to safeguard people's most sensitive information, including their medical records, financial data, and Social Security numbers. For example, when a unique identifier is needed on forms created or processed by your office, the form should ask for a Penn ID, and not an individual's Social Security number, unless there is a reason dictating that the actual number be supplied--such as tax forms, financial assistance forms, etc. If there is such a need, then the Social Security number should be used only for the specific purpose for which it was intended.

Penn is working to safeguard the privacy of information pertaining to the individuals in our community. Our collective role in that endeavor is critical. We are pleased to report that various administrative offices continue to make significant progress in reducing the visibility of SSN on a wide range of reports and forms. Notable recent examples include the pay advice, class enrollment lists and grade sheets. We are continuing to explore other privacy issues affecting the University and Health System and will keep you apprised of additional measures we identify to safeguard personal information. As we increasingly raise awareness of privacy issues and take concrete actions to protect personal data, we are better able to maintain the solid trust that so many individuals in the Penn community place in us.

If you have questions or seek advice on privacy-related matters, many resources are available to you. As announced in this edition of Almanac, Penn has appointed Lauren Steinfeld as its first Chief Privacy Officer. Ms. Steinfeld was formerly Associate Chief Counselor for Privacy in the Clinton White House and we're fortunate to have her here to coordinate efforts throughout the University to protect personal privacy. Through collaboration among the Chief Privacy Officer, the Office of Audit and Compliance, the Office of the Provost, the Office of General Counsel, and other resources, we will continue to ensure that you have the necessary information to understand privacy issues and how they relate to your organizational unit. A voicemail box has been set up at 1-888-BEN-TIPS to receive your comments or questions.

We thank you for your cooperation in this effort, and look forward to working with you in the future to build upon our accomplishments to date in this important area.

-- Robert Barchi, Provost
-- John A. Fry, Executive Vice President

Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 24, February 26, 2002


February 26, 2002
Volume 48 Number 24

Penn takes the lead in the Ivy League and appoints a Chief Privacy Officer.
Two Penn mathematicians become Carey Term Chairs.
Community Service is recognized and appreciated with awards to some of the many volunteers from "town and gown."
Establishing design guidelines for future campus buildings to retain Penn's character.
Balancing banners and beauty.
More from Government Affairs.
March AT PENN Calendar