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Sep 19th 2005

“You Have No Privacy” – BYU

I just received a disturbing email entitled “Legal notice regarding your right to privacy” from Brigham Young University (BYU), the university that I attend. In it they outline their “privacy policy”. Here is what I found rather disconcerting (emphasis mine):

BYU has designated the following student information as directory information that it may disclose to the public without the consent of the student:

Name
Addresses and telephone numbers
E-mail address
Month/Day/Place of birth
Names of parents or spouse
Major and minor fields of study
Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
Weight and height of members of athletic teams
Current class schedule
Pictures
Dates of attendance (current and past)
Number of months/semesters enrolled
Class standing (freshman, sophomore, etc.)
Enrollment status (full-time, part-time, less than half-time)
Degrees and awards received
Previous educational institutions attended
Dates of employment and job titles for student employment positions
Anticipated future enrollments
Course registrations prior to the beginning of a semester or term
Expected date of graduation
Deferred registration eligibility
Religious affiliation to a student’s local church or congregation

In other words, BYU doesn’t care about my right to privacy. Sadly, it’s not surprising at all.

At the end of the email, they provide this notice:

Students have the right to restrict disclosure of the above directory information. To request restriction of disclosure, students must file a written request on or before the tenth day of a semester or the sixth day of a term.

Problem is, we are way past the tenth day of semester. Convenient for BYU…

23 Responses to ““You Have No Privacy” – BYU”

  1. Ryan

    This is ridiculous!! Why in the world are they providing that kind of information to the public?

  2. Dougy,
    you write this post as if you were some how surprised.

  3. They should instead call it a publicity policy. And hey, why not go to a school with a publicity policy? Especially if it’s an acting school, or in the drama department, where fame is the game.

  4. ever heard of the patriot act? i thought you supported such measures to sniff out terrorists. BYU is only complying with what the patriot act requires them to do.

  5. also you gave up your “right to privacy” when you voted for W and other conservatives who created the patriot act. where does this right of privacy thing come from anyway?

  6. doug

    Katie: stop using Briant’s email to post comments here. 😉

  7. where does this right of privacy thing come from anyway?

    penumbras

  8. I think that Briant (or whoever is replying under his name) has moved this argument out of its intended realms. Doug is properly concerned about his personal information being made available to entities who would misuse it for fraudulent or profit driven purposes. This is quite a bit different talking about the privacy “rights” possibly abridged by a national security measure like the patriot act. In that case, information is made available to government bodies that we have, for better or for worse, entrusted with the task of protecting us. I mean, I think I can handle knowing that the CIA might read my email if it means they have a better chance of catching wind of dangerous activity in general. But I digress…
    So while Doug is accused of hypocrisy, or at least inconsistency for being conservative and and at the same time reclaiming some right to privacy, the accusation turns on a classic liberal trick: shifting definitions of a term mid-argument. For more information on that trick, see Ann Coulter’s most recent commentary on judicial activism. The rights Doug is talking about fall along the lines of protection from exploitation and criminal conduct–something BYU should be sensitive to. And Doug is especially not referring to the penumbral right to privacy which logically leads to the conclusion that women are allowed to kill their babies.

  9. Justin

    They may be claiming it now, but this policy has NOTHING to do with the Patriot Act.

    BYU’s been making this sort of info available since LONG before 2001. My mom told me that in her days at the Y (mid-70s) people used the schedule thing to track down people they wanted to date.

    Can you say, SCARY!?!

  10. al

    I do not attend BYU, and I have known for several years now, that this information was available. In fact, I have used the student directory on several occasions to find my friend’s phone numbers I lost. (including once for you, Travis, back during freshman year.)
    As to whether this is right or wrong, I am okay with people knowing some, if not all of my information, agreeing with abuzachary that the information help track down “evil doers”.
    I also agree that BYU should be sensitive to making information available to all, potentially leading to illegal or unethical behavior.
    One way of at least limiting availability is to only allow students or those who have routeY access the ability to see information. But even then, how much information should be considered public domain?
    So now we will have to create a new department in all of our schools to make sure that none of our information is misused, making everyone’s tuition go up! Great!
    But hey, as long as my information is safe and secure for all the world to see, and we keep the crappy bowling lanes in the bottom of the wilk from being blown up, I’m cool.

  11. This is not Katie, but actually Briant. Sorry for all of those people who thought I was mindless conservative droid.

    50 USC § 1862, look at (215) and other fun sections that even require HBLL to disclose books you have checked out. BYU’s policy may not be based on the Patriot Act, but this privacy email is just the tip of the iceberg in comparison to the PA. So why don’t we write the DOJ today instead of waiting until next semester?

    My point is that why do we complain about BYU’s privacy policy when the Patriot Act would require them to disclose so much more without any consent on our part. At least when you enroll at BYU you impliedly consent to policies in their handbook. I do find it strange that Doug endorses violations of others’ “right” to privacy while he cringes to think that the NSA can use his BYU student ID pic and hang it in post offices nationwide.

  12. doug

    My point is that why do we complain about BYU’s privacy policy when the Patriot Act would require them to disclose so much more without any consent on our part.

    Not true. Not true. Not true.

    Briant, just try calling BYU and asking for all my personal information saying that the Patriot Act entitles you to it.

    In fact…abuzachary already addressed this:

    Doug is properly concerned about his personal information being made available to entities who would misuse it for fraudulent or profit driven purposes. This is quite a bit different talking about the privacy “rights” possibly abridged by a national security measure like the patriot act.

  13. Doug, are you concerned that the “public” that BYU might give your info to are “entities who would misuse it.”

    To me it seems clear that when BYU says it “may” disclose information to the “public,” it doesn’t mean telemarketers or people who sell out space on their blog for google ads.

    You are right that the Patriot Act does not require BYU to disclose information to the public, but as far as law enforcement and government agencies are concerned, the PA’s scope is extremely broader than BYU’s privacy policy.

    In short, I think we need to determine to whom BYU would give this information without consent of a student before we claim that it does not respect your privacy. Big Brother W is always watching.

  14. doug

    In short, I think we need to determine to whom BYU would give this information without consent of a student before we claim that it does not respect your privacy.

    As provided in the original post, here is the official legal notice provided by the university (emphasis mine):

    BYU has designated the following student information as directory information that it may disclose to the public without the consent of the student:

    Now, you may know more about the privacy policy than me, since you claim:

    To me it seems clear that when BYU says it “may” disclose information to the “public,” it doesn’t mean telemarketers or people who sell out space on their blog for google ads.

    But to me the phrase “the public” means just about anybody.

    Ignoring the more obvious differences between BYU’s “privacy policy” and the Patriot Act (such as those that abuzachary has pointed out), I do find it interesting that you have applied two different lines of reasoning in examining whether BYU’s policy or the Patriot Act violate my privacy.

    In BYU’s case you assert that nothing is wrong because no application of the policy has lead to a violation of my private information (ie. no “telemarketers” have gotten my info from BYU). Yet you simultaneously argue that the Patriot Act is an even greater violation of my privacy because it provides the opportunity for the government to see what books I’ve checked out from the library.

  15. doug,
    you are splitting hairs and unable to engage in discussion with someone who think European football is better than south american. i withdraw all comments. thank you.

  16. also, you need spellcheck on comments so pple like me dont look like idiotos.

  17. M.McD

    great comments. very compelling. however, (and I speak only for myself and Doug. yes Doug, I do) once again the point of all this commotion has been overlooked and completely lost in the political and social rhetoric of people too smart for their own good. Let me be brief: We don’t have girlfriends. That’s correct, by making public domain all of those interesting and, some might say, personal details of our very available and single lives BYU is merely increasing the likelihood that even we may someday enjoy the companionship of another. In fact, since I’ve been graduated I’ve actually petitioned the administration by the !5th! day of every semester in desperate hopes that they will once again return to the public my personal information–and all to no avail. You see, that’s the real purpose and sadly Doug, you’re not appreciating it (and let’s be honest friend, I’m not getting any younger and your hairline isn’t getting any lower). So Doug, you’re one of the lucky ones.

  18. Tiffany

    One thing you might find interesting is that although I have graduated from BYU, I can still log in to Route Y and search the student directory and find the names, addresses, and phone numbers of current students. However, if you try to search for me, you won’t find me. I have access to the database but I am not in the database. Oh and Doug, you may be of the opinion that you don’t want your permanent address and phone number given out, but it looks like not all of your siblings agree…

  19. Scott

    Another thing that is lost in this thread is personal responsibility. BYU isn’t sneaking up on anyone who is capable of reading. This policy existed before any of you started school there. This policy was almost assuredly supplied to you in materials you received before starting school. The fact no one bothered to read about the privacy policy that the university is legally required to provide to you, does not somehow make the school anti-American. Nor is this policy specific to BYU. It’s common throughout U.S. universities. Chalk it up as a lesson learned and take more responsibility for yourself in the future.

  20. doug

    This policy was almost assuredly supplied to you in materials you received before starting school.

    Uh no, it wasn’t.

    The fact no one bothered to read about the privacy policy that the university is legally required to provide to you, does not somehow make the school anti-American.

    No one claimed it was “anti-American,” as “anyone who is capable of reading” can see by reviewing this post and its comments.

    Nor is this policy specific to BYU. It’s common throughout U.S. universities.

    Bzzzzt. Wrong again.

    You’d be hard-pressed to find a bunch of universities that offer students’ photos and class schedules like BYU-Idaho does.

    Chalk it up as a lesson learned and take more responsibility for yourself in the future.

    Of course…why bother trying to change bad policy?

  21. I find it hard to believe that Doug did not know of this policy prior to accepting enrollment. It is clearly stated on the website. http://honorcode.byu.edu/Honor_code_Office__Policies__Records_Management.htm

    What you should be more concerned about it are the many schools (byu included) that use an individuals SSN as their student ID!

  22. Camilla

    I personally trust BYU to use my information in appropraite ways. If the prophet or some world leader needs to know my class schedule it’s fine by me.

  23. […] –Scott, ~Sept 2005 [link] this [is a] ridiculous website….[you] bury [your] heads in the sand as the truth passes [you] by. […]