The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 73.0°F | Partly Cloudy

Letter Writers Misinterpret Card Key Arguments

I am writing to address the concerns of two recent letters in response to my recent argument against card keys ["MIT Card Puts Safety at Risk," Nov. 18].

Brad J. Bartley '96 claims my arguments are not rational ["Misovec Criticism of Card Key System is Flawed," Nov. 22]. Indeed nothing is more edifying than to find contradictions and inaccuracies in the letter of one who purports to advocate rationality. Bartley claims that I "never compare it to the current system of keys" and then proceeds to contradict himself by attempting to refute my claims that card keys cause more risk than metal keys.

One major risk factor is having the card fail completely and the possibility of being stranded outside late at night. I maintain my position that these cards can fail more easily than metal keys due to their sensitivity to minor scratches and also due to possible demagnetization. My own card broke down completely last term, and I had to get another one.

Bartley is inaccurate in stating my concerns about risks due to card duplication are "simply wrong." Although it is debatable how "widely available" card duplication techniques are, the recent New Jersey ATM card scandal proves that they are possible. Furthermore, as magnetic strip cards become more widely used, duplication techniques will become more widely available.

I must admit to being completely baffled by the logic of Bartley's statements about key identification. He agrees with me that card keys are flawed because they identify the owner explicitly. He then notes that the metal key labeling exists and is "more cryptic" and that an "intent criminal" could find the dorm which corresponds to a given key. Yet this is precisely another of the many reasons that card keys are less secure than metal keys; a lackadaisical criminal or just anyone could simply look in an MIT directory to find out where the card key owner lives.

Regarding unauthorized use, the MIT Card is more susceptible than other financial cards because it doesn't have password or signature protection and because of its added functionality as a key.

Furthermore, we may not have a choice about the cash option. Future card plans are worrisome because the Housing Office representative who came to Ashdown House could not answer our questions about whether we would still be able to use cash in laundry and vending machines or if we will be forced to have an account, as we were forced to have a card key.

I would urge the second letter writer, Daniel J. Weber '97 [Card Key Article, Column Falls Short Of Mark," Nov. 22], to examine the issues more carefully and from a perspective different from his own.

For example, he questions why the 30 percent reduction in crime attributed to the new card system was not included in the headline of a related article ["Card Keys Sometimes a Problem" Nov. 18]. I certainly believe that card keys should be continued in parking lots where they are reducing car theft. However, I question this statistic. What percent of this includes personal safety and how are these statistics measured? The recent murder of Yngve K. Raustein '94 was not included in campus crime statistics because the sidewalk was not considered part of the campus.

Weber does not believe that the exposure to mugging theft and rape is increased, citing that "front doors are visible" to people both outside and inside the building. He has never had to swipe his card through six or seven times as other people have. He finds it "puzzling that'' carrying both card keys and a wallet is an annoyance because he personally always carries his wallet everywhere. And he suggests that people not willing to take the risk of financial loss simply not sign up for a meal plan.

On all of these points, Weber should consider that others' habits are different than his own. Other people return late. Other people may carry their cards differently and may have more scratches on their cards. Other people going jogging or to lab may prefer not to carry their wallets everywhere. And finally, students may not have a choice about the cash option on their card, and meal plans have sometimes been mandatory at MIT.

/Weber believes that my only plausible point is privacy concerns because the potential to track people exists. I believe the people in the MIT Card office when they say they would not use this feature, and I personally am not too concerned about this issue. However, I respect that people have a right to privacy. Weber apparently does not believe that these potential privacy invasions are at all significant and presents us with a small list of his actions and bodily functions that are not accessible to the computer.

I think Weber's investigation is trite because he looked up where I live and pointed out incorrect directory information that two people quoted in the related article live on my floor.

I believe the cards are a poorly designed embarrassment to a technical institution. Being a woman I am sensitive to issues that affect student safety, and I believe these security risks are real.

I am happy to read in The Tech that the administration is responding to student concerns about the future of several dorms and parking and I sincerely hope they respond to safety concerns by the simple solution of issuing a separate, non-identifiable and sturdier type of key which can be placed on a standard key ring.

Kathleen Misovec G