Student privacy a priority for WSU

Graphic by Maddy VanOrman

Do you know what happens to your information when you enter it into a website? Many people don’t give it much thought, especially if it involves something done on a regular basis.

Students at Weber State University rely on the university to safeguard their personal information that is accumulated during their time in higher education against cyber attackers.

In the past several years, WSU has implemented security measures that have made their infrastructure much more secure than it was in the past.

There was a time when the only thing a student needed to have infinite access to everything in their account was to enter their login information only once. New security protocols have added additional barriers between the main account and sections with more sensitive personal information. When students attempt to access these sections, they are prompted to log in again.

Since many students access their accounts from public computers, there is a risk that they will leave their account logged in, allowing for additional users to have access. Potential intruders are disarmed unless they have the student’s username and password. That’s why the system forces students to change their password on a regular basis.

On the WSU website, the privacy policy states that they only collect personal information for carrying out user requests. They will not distribute it to any third parties unless they are required to do so by law or WSU policy.

A lot of websites go out of their way to track where their visitors go from the moment they enter their website until they visit other websites. Some websites even go as far as to track where their visitors go elsewhere on the internet. The purpose behind why they collect this kind of information ranges from mundane to nefarious.

Users are not personally identified when they go the WSU website. Instead, the website collects what browser they’re using, where they’re coming from and how much time they spend on the site. This information provides very little value to anyone other than people who are trying to make a website better.

Cookies, or bits of computer data, have a tendency to leave important information in a vulnerable state for hackers to access. This problem becomes more significant the longer people go without deleting the accumulated cookies. Browsers allow you to change your settings to make it so instead of  automatically saving cookies you have the opportunity to grant permission every time a website wants to save a cookie on their computer. The cookies can then be removed when you decide to close your browser and do something else.

Encryption is something that we take for granted. This measure scrambles a person’s data in a way that’s still understandable to the website, but not any outside source. All information that’s entered into various parts of the WSU website is encrypted from the moment you submit it until you need it again.

Based on an analysis of the privacy policies from the four major universities, WSU is the most open and transparent about what they’re doing to keep their students’ information secure. Other privacy policies are considerably longer and are not written in a way that’s universally understandable. They work to remain on the forefront of what technology allows them to accomplish and what their student body and society as a whole expects of them. Their dedication sends a message to all current and future students at Weber State that their trust is well-placed.