TO: All NYU Students

FROM: Jules Martin, Vice President for Public Safety and Marc Wais, Vice President for Student Affairs

RE: Personal Information, and Online Privacy and Safety

The internet has changed university life in vast and sometimes unanticipated ways. In the main, it has been an enormous benefit, allowing for ease of communication, new forms of collaboration, incredible access to a world of ideas, and the creation of new and previously unachievable communities. The University wants students to approach the on-line world with undaunted curiosity, and we believe that it can be healthy and exciting to build or participate in on-line communities.

However, as more and more people have posted personal information on the web -- either on their own web pages or through on-line social networking communities -- the issues of privacy and safety have emerged as increasingly important and urgent.

Some examples:

  • Job Searches -- The Wasserman Center for Career Development has reports from students that that some employers have examined personal profiles on Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, and similar social networking sites. In some cases, the information they obtained has diminished students’ prospects of securing jobs they were pursuing.
  • Violent Crime --Last year, police in Virginia were investigating a possible connection between the murder of a Virginia Commonwealth University student and personal information she had posted on the web.
  • Exploitation -- Over the summer, the New York Post reported the on the arrest of a Hunter College student who, adopting a false identity and using information posted on a social networking site, persuaded a number of women to send him nude photos of themselves, and threatened to post explicit pictures on the internet.
  • Identity Theft -- Personal information posted on the web can be helpful to those committing identity theft.

For that reason, we want to remind you to use caution and common sense as you post personal information. You should assume that if the information is posted on a social networking site, anyone can get to it. So, avoid posting information about your residential address, your phone number, specifics about your schedule, or other personal information (especially social security numbers or birthdates) that can make you the target of identity theft, that can make you unsafe or the target of harassment, or that might be problematic for the world to know.

For additional guidance, Information Technology Services maintains a website with advice on computer security, and the Wasserman Center also has a webpage with advice about sharing personal information.

Best wishes as you make safe and happy connections.