The change became effective Oct. 31. Privacy concerns from students and campus stakeholders prompted the change, said Kate Hash, communications manager for ITS.
“It was really a coalescing of a lot of people facing the same question, this healthy question, at the exact same time,” Hash said. “We were hearing from a variety of stakeholders and really felt it was time to take action on it.”
Holly Benton, interim chief privacy officer for ITS, worked on the process of altering the privacy settings for the directory, a change that is part of a broader privacy initiative at the University.
Benton said the initiative’s goals are educating the campus, engaging campus stakeholders and helping people comprehend the privacy issues facing the community.
“This is just one piece of a broader picture moving forward to make sure that at UNC, we are doing the very best we can to protect the dignity of the individual,” she said.
After listening to concerns from stakeholders and comparing privacy practices at other institutions, Benton worked with ITS to create a process to protect the privacy of individuals at UNC.
The information now listed by default in directory entries consists of name, major and UNC email address.
Students and faculty members can now add more information to their directory listing by changing their privacy settings.
Freshman Kaila Eckstein said the old settings gave many people access to a lot of personal information, which was unnecessary because of the many forms of social media available for communicating with others.
“You can still email people, so you still have a way to contact people, but you have a little more privacy and protection if you don’t want your information available,” she said.
Taylor Hibbitts, who graduated from UNC in May, said the new privacy settings are more respectful of individuals and their privacy.
“I feel like it protects the privacy a little bit better, because I remember during undergrad, if I needed to find someone who dropped their OneCard or check my friend’s email to make sure I had it right, I got all their information, which I didn’t need,” he said.
Benton said it is important to protect individuals’ information because of harassment and privacy concerns.
Some people did not know all their information was available in a public domain, Benton said.
“Fundamentally, it’s your information,” she said. “And that information, in this day and age, can be used in ways you may not want.”