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Card Entries to Campus Buildings, Labs Tracked

By Lauren E. LeBon


The MIT Card Office has begun recording entrances to campus buildings using the MIT card.

Unsuccessful attempts have always been recorded, but successful entries of buildings and laboratories are tracked now as well.

The new policy was created at the request of departments which wanted the information available to respond to thefts and other crimes.

When MIT upgraded its software this past summer, the Card Office began keeping more detailed records of card usage around campus, said Card Office Manager Daniel L. Michaud.

Tracking protects department

The new feature was added because some departments wanted access to the information if a security problem arose.

“We track this information for a two week period. After two weeks, it is overwritten,” said Michaud.

Assistant Director of Enterprise Services John M. McDonald said the two week limit was set in the new policy to prevent the records from being examined by a court.

“If people don’t know there was a problem in two weeks, then shame on them,” said McDonald.

“The only people with access [to this information] are departments responding to an incident or crime,” Michaud said.

Michaud said that incidents prompting card tracking ranging from a major theft in the chemistry department a few years ago to a professor’s report of a stolen laptop.

Michaud added that the only way to obtain access to the records of entrances is with written permission from the MIT Chief of Police, John DiFava.

“It’s a tool that can be utilized if something serious happens,” said MIT Deputy Chief of Police John E. Driscoll. “We’re not tracking people.”

McDonald says that he understands that the new policy intrudes on student privacy.

“It may be an encroachment, but it’s in a minimally invasive way,” Macdonald said.

MIT originally against tracking

MIT implemented the card program in 1993. One of the functions of the new identification card was to allow students and faculty to gain entrance into dormitories and labs.

At the time, the software had the capability to track all attempts to use a card in a reader, but Larry Maguire of Housing and Food Services chose to not consider using this technology unless a “serious campus security problem” arose, according to a memorandum from Amy S. Bruckman PhD ‘97. Bruckman was the head of a now defunct committee that dealt with privacy issues surrounding the MIT card.

Originally, student information was only recorded if there was an unsuccessful entry attempt into a building or laboratory.

“The key card readers could potentially use the key cards for a tremendous amount of information. No data is stored on the card itself, but the card reader is capable of recording as much or as less as is programmed,” Bruckman said in 1994.

Students unaware of policy

MIT students are unaware of the new changes to the card policy.

“I was not aware of that policy,” said Darren D. Chang G.

Chang believes that the tracking would be ineffective in preventing thefts.

“I don’t believe there are many students out there with the intention of theft. It sounds like a deterrent rather than” a tool for investigation, Chang said.

Charles Cheng G believes the tracking is related to the tracking of international students by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

“This limits our mobility,” said Cheng.

“This system is imposed on you. You don’t choose to be at MIT, we have to be here,” Chang said.