PPM Section 21 - Social Security Number Policy
Introduction to Social Security Number Privacy Act
The Michigan Social Security Number Privacy Act (MCL §445.81 et seq.) requires that
universities institute a policy that protects the privacy of Social Security numbers. Western
Michigan University recognizes the importance and sensitivity of an individual's private and
personal information, including an individual's Social Security number. The University, in its
capacity as an employer and an educational institution, collects a variety of personal and private
information, including Social Security numbers. The University strives to ensure the proper
handling of all private, personal information, including compliance with all legal requirements
regarding such information.
Western Michigan University policy
It is the policy of Western Michigan University to ensure to the greatest extent practicable
the confidentiality of Social Security numbers. Social Security numbers are private, personal
information that should be utilized only in accordance with University policy on Social Security
This policy does not alter existing policies regarding the use of Social Security numbers that
are more restrictive than this policy. The internal use of Social Security numbers for legitimate
university business is not prohibited by this policy. Such internal use must be in compliance
with other university policies.
Documents that are no longer needed that contain Social Security numbers must be shredded.
Under no circumstances should any document with all or any portion of a Social Security number
be disposed of without first being shredded.
Access to and restrictions about Social Security numbers
Access to Social Security numbers is limited to those individuals whose work duties require
them to have access to those numbers.
With regard to employees, students, and for other individuals for whom the university must
collect Social Security numbers, the following requests for, displays of, or uses of Social
Security numbers are prohibited:
- First, and with regard to students, it is important to note that student grades may not
be displayed using all or any portion of a student's Social Security number.
- Publicly displaying all or any portion of a person's Social Security number;
- Using all or any portion of a person's Social Security number as an account number unless
the Social Security number was used as an account number before January 1, 2006;
- Using all or any portion of a person's Social Security number on a badge or card;
- Requiring a person to submit more than 4 sequential digits of her/his Social Security number
over an internet connection unless the connection is secure or the transmission is encrypted;
- Requiring a person to submit more than 4 sequential digits of his/her Social Security number
to gain access to an internet website or computer system or network unless the connection
is secure, the transmission is encrypted, or a password or other unique personal identification
number or other authentication device is also required to gain access to the internet site
or computer system or network;
- Including more than 4 sequential digits of a person's Social Security number in any document
mailed to any individual unless:
- Applicable law requires, permits, or authorizes that the Social Security number appear
in the document;
- The document is sent as part of an application or enrollment process initiated by the
- The document is sent to establish or confirm the status of, service, amend, or terminate
an account, contract, policy, or employee or health insurance benefit, or to confirm the
accuracy of a Social Security number of an individual who has an account, contract, policy,
or employee or health insurance benefit;
- The document is mailed:
- In compliance with the Michigan Freedom of Information Act;
- The document is part of a vital record recorded as provided for by law and is mailed
to a person entitled to receive the record;
- The document or information is mailed by or at the request of an individual whose Social
Security number appears in the document or his or her parent or legal guardian.
- The document is mailed in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability
Act (HIPAA) or the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.
Permitted uses of Social Security numbers
The use of Social Security numbers to conduct academic administrative activities in the
University is discouraged. However, circumstances exist where the use of Social Security numbers
is required, particularly in the administration of financial aid and student employment. The
University may still use Social Security numbers to conducts its legitimate, internal academic
and student employment operations, including generating reports, verifying the identity of students
when such identity is in legitimate doubt, and communicating within or between University offices.
Social Security numbers used for these purposes should be treated as confidential and the privacy
and integrity of numbers should be preserved to the greatest extent practicable.
Circumstances in which the use of a person's Social Security number are allowed:
- If the use is pursuant to court order, state or federal law, or in legal discovery, or
- If the use is for the purpose of law enforcement or prosecution.
The administrative use of Social Security numbers in the normal course of business is allowed:
- To verify the identity of an individual or to do some other similar administrative purpose
related to an account, transaction, product, service, or employment or proposed account, transaction,
product, service, or employment.
- To investigate an individual's claim, credit, criminal, or driving history;
- To detect, prevent, or deter identity theft or another crime;
- To lawfully pursue a legal right;
- To provide or administer employee health insurance or membership benefits, claims, or retirement
A violation of this policy constitutes grounds for discipline up to and including discharge
under the human resources policy and procedure manual or applicable collective bargaining agreement.
In addition, a knowing violation of this policy may also constitute a violation of the Michigan
Social Security Number Privacy Act and subject the person to criminal prosecution under Michigan
Any questions regarding this policy should be directed to an employee's supervisor.