Help! My College is Stealing My Identity!

Corinne Gaston

As students at USC, the Halloween shooting is still fresh in many of our minds. And it’s hard to forget with the new security measures, particularly the fences and the I.D. checkpoints at USC entryways. I’m not surprised that the University increased security immediately after the shooting. Who would expect anything else? But let’s take a minute and reflect on the installment of fingerprint scanners in all if the dorms. Let’s reflect on the fact that practically overnight, USC quietly gathered the fingerprints of all students who live in USC campus housing.

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Does this make anyone else feel uneasy?

If the fingerprint scanners become a permanent part of USC Housing security, then in the future, USC will have the fingerprints of nearly all of its current students in a system. And sure, maybe USC will only use this information for the sake of making sure students are who they say they are when they enter their dorms.

But consider the power of having the fingerprints of thousands of people. Consider the connection between power and money and the fact that although USC is technically a not-for-profit university, it’s run like a money-making machine. In the fall of 2011, USC kicked off a $6 billion fundraising campaign and more recently, Dornsife kicked off a $750 million one. People donate tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, yet USC is still downsizing El Centro for the second time in USC history due to cost, and campus workers still have to fight to ensure that they have fair contracts with the University. Cutting expenses and increasing profits in the hundreds of millions (billions, if USC has its way).

More than anything, I’m afraid that USC will share and/or sell the fingerprints of its students. This fear is not unfounded when you look at some of USC’s business practices. Currently, as part of a credit card deal USC has with Bank of America in which USC gets a small cut of money every time someone uses a BoA card with a USC logo on it, our university “shares” the contact information of alumni with the bank. Because, as we know, we’re all just potential customers.

I really don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist here, but once the possibility of USC sharing and/or selling student identification to outside parties such as LAPD occurred to me, I couldn’t make the thoughts go away. I could only focus on what a huge breach of privacy this is. And while USC, as a private university, has the “right” to create its own security measures, USC doesn’t have the right to own my fingerprint – my identification.

This kind of technological militarization is troubling, especially because of how normalized and generally accepted it is. Sure, some people grumbled about the inconvenience of the fingerprint scanners, but I haven’t heard people express concern that a private university that is run like a corporation now owns their fingerprint.

Who is to say what will be done with them?

More Interloper coverage of USC security policy here.

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