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The SSN Initiative

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need to worry about protecting Social Security numbers?

As the SSN has grown in prevalence as a unique identifier it has become possible not only to discover a great deal of information about an individual, but also to initiate important business transactions using a person's SSN.

What will be used in place of the SSN?

The University ID number will replace the SSN as the primary means of identifying individuals.

Does this mean that I don't ever have to give the University my Social Security number?

Although we are working hard to minimize the University's need to solicit SSN, you will still need to provide your SSN in some circumstances. For example, employees must provide SSN for tax reporting purposes and students must provide SSN for federal financial aid reporting..

I am still asked for my SSN while trying to transact business with the University. What's going on?

No one should at UVa should be asking for SSN without an approved reason. That said, don't hesitate to ask why the number is being requested and whether there is an alternative.

How can we distinguish University ID numbers from SSNs?

Like SSNs, University ID numbers are 9-digit numbers. However, steps have been taken to reduce the possibility of University ID number-SSN overlap (e.g. out of the original random creation of 20,000+ University ID numbers, fewer than 100 matched SSNs already in our system and replacements were regenerated for those). So usually, if one is trying to look up someone based on University ID number and nothing is returned, the informant accidentally provided the SSN (or vice versa). To help distinguish which number is being asked for on a form, never refer to “ID #” but explicitly ask for “University ID number” or “SSN” as appropriate. Also, a helpful visual clue as to what is being requested in forms is the use of the 4 digit dash 5 digit format used by the University ID (xxxx-xxxxx) rather than the xxx-xx-xxxx format traditionally used for SSNs. The same is true for reports and print outs.

Are University ID numbers public information?

Although University ID numbers are not, strictly speaking, confidential, they should not be handled casually, and, particularly when used or stored in large quantities, should be well-protected. University ID numbers are defined as moderately sensitive data under U.Va.'s official Institutional Data Protection Standards.

What can individual faculty members do concerning their use of SSNs?

There are several actions faculty members can take, including:

What about records retention requirements?

For detailed guidance regarding retention requirements for records containing SSN, see Records Guidance for Highly Sensitive Data.