Policy AD53 PRIVACY POLICY (Formerly Privacy Statement)

Policy Steward: Vice President for Administration


  • Purpose
  • Definitions
  • Scope
  • Policy
  • Further Information
  • Cross References


    To establish a framework for compliance and responsibility regarding privacy and the protection of an individual's personal information. 


    Personally Identifiable Information (PII) – Any information maintained by the University that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual's identity, including, but not limited to, Social Security Numbers (SSNs), credit card numbers, bank account numbers, Driver's License numbers, state ID cards, passport numbers, military ID numbers, tribal ID numbers, dates of birth, biometric data (including fingerprints, retina images, and DNA profile), digital signatures, usernames or email addresses combined with passwords or security questions and answers or protected health information.

    Privacy Governance Board - The Privacy Governance Board shall consist of the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, the Chief Information Security Officer, the Privacy Officer and the Vice President for Human Resources or their delegees, as appropriate. The role of the Privacy Governance Board will be to advise the Executive Vice President and Provost on privacy related matters. Members from individual units may be consulted/added to the Privacy Governance Board on an ad hoc basis, as needed.


    This policy is applicable to all members of The Pennsylvania State University community and visitors to the University, including but not limited to students, scholars, faculty, lecturers/instructors, staff, third-party vendors, and others with access to the University's campus and University PII.  This policy also applies to all locations and operations of the University.


    I. Information Privacy

    a. General Privacy

    The University shall limit the collection, use, disclosure or storage of PII to that which reasonably serves the University's academic, research, or administrative functions, or other legally required purposes. Such collection, use, disclosure and storage shall comply with applicable Federal and state laws and regulations, and University policies.

    b. Information That May Be Disclosed to Third Parties

    c. Expectation of Privacy

    In the interest of promoting academic freedom and an open, collegial atmosphere, the University recognizes the reasonable privacy expectations of its employees, affiliates, and students in relation to their personal information, including papers, confidential records, and communications by mail, telephone, and other electronic means, subject only to applicable state and federal laws and University policies and regulations, including the policy set forth herein. The University will not monitor such information without cause except as required by law or permitted by University Policy.

    d. Applicable Principles

    In invoking the exception clause (“subject only to applicable state and federal laws and University polices and regulations”), the following principles apply:

      1. Necessary Action – Exceptions to the privacy policy may be authorized only when reasonably necessary to protect the security and interests, legal or otherwise, of the University, its communications system, and the academic process, or when there is reason to believe that the individual has violated or may have violated law or University regulations.
      2. Consultation – The exception clause may be invoked only by persons with responsibility and authority for administering the law or regulations within the University (e.g., computer security officer, University police) and, except for civil or criminal matters or proceedings, compliance with any other legal requirement, matters of public safety, or when conditions or circumstances exist that necessitate immediate access, only after consultation with an appropriate University Official, as defined in AD83, or the Privacy Governance Board.  The Privacy Governance Board’s deliberations, when consulted, shall be kept confidential.
      3. Notification – Where practicable (and subject to the University’s legal obligations, the circumstances described in this and all other University policies, or conditions or circumstances exist that necessitate immediate access), the University shall provide advance notification to an individual prior to all other University access, for cause, to the content of an individual’s user files / systems / activity (and, if necessary, physical locations in order to access said files / systems / activity).  In certain instances where an individual is, for any reason, unavailable to receive such advance notification and his or her individual data is to be accessed to accomplish legitimate University business, access may also be permitted without prior notification.

    e. Responsibility

    Executive guidance for the Privacy interests addressed by this policy and related guidelines of both the University and those individuals whose private data has been entrusted to its care shall be vested in the Executive Vice President and Provost.

    II. Specific Categories of Information

    The below are data use constraints related to certain types of data collected, processed, stored, or published by the University.

    EMAIL ADDRESSES - E-mail addresses appearing on University web sites are published for the sole purpose of facilitating private, individual communication between University personnel and readers. The University will not distribute, sell, or otherwise transfer addresses on its website or online services to non-affiliated parties or individuals. The University reserves the right to use internal search functions to obtain specific email addresses for normal business operations. Information such as email addresses may also be displayed in online directories accessible by the general public, unless requested otherwise (see AD11, University Policy on Confidentiality of Student Records and HR58, Employee Office Address and Telephone Number Information).

    INFORMATION COLLECTED FOR SERVICE PROVISION – On occasion, the University may collect information from and about users to synchronize systems or update the experience between the user and Penn State.  Penn State will not sell, trade, or share the information collected per the University’s Web Privacy Statement. Information collected will be used solely for the purpose for which it was intended. 

    SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER (SSN) AND PENN STATE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (PSUID) – A Penn State Identification Number (PSUID) will be assigned to all students and employees of the University as the primary identification number for University purposes. The PSUID shall be unique to the individual and is a lifetime assignment used for multiple and changing relationships with the University.

    As a matter of University policy, and except as may be required by applicable federal, state or local laws or regulations, it is prohibited that, and in no case shall, any SSN be used as an identifier in a University hosted or developed system or applications, or transmitted electronically, unencrypted. The use of SSNs as an identification number within the University will be limited to the designated purposes outlined in ADG08 Collection, Storage and Authorized Use of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) and Penn State Identification Numbers.  SSNs will only be requested and required in certain cases, such as when required by law or for business purposes with certain third party providers.

    All records containing SSNs will be considered restricted information and shall be secured appropriately (See Policy AD71, Data Categorization). Disposal of the records must be done securely, and in accordance with Policy AD35, University Archives and Records Management.

    HEALTH INFORMATION - Individuals have rights with respect to the privacy and security of their health information under Federal and state laws and regulations, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA"). These rights are outlined in University Policy AD22, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

    INFORMATION COLLECTED FROM UNIVERSITY'S WEBSITE – Information collected on the University's website is governed by the University's Web Privacy Statement.

    ELECTRONIC SECURITY SYSTEM INFORMATION - Access by University units and individuals to information gathered, processed, and archived through electronic security systems (e.g., card or other facility access systems, alarm systems, video surveillance systems) shall occur only in accordance with Policy AD65, Electronic Security and Access Systems.

    III. Data Protection and Data Loss Prevention

    In order to protect internally controlled or restricted data entrusted to its care (See Policy AD71, Data Categorization), the University reserves the right to monitor its networks to detect and respond to externally or internally generated attacks upon its systems, subject to the constraints of this Policy.

    PROTECTION OF PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION (PII) – All systems that house certain types of restricted PII are subject to the Pennsylvania Data Security Breach Notification Laws, (PA Statutes, Title 73, Ch. 43, §2301 -2308, 2329) and/or other applicable data breach notification laws.  University systems, regardless of the category of data maintained, must be scanned appropriately to identify PII-using University approved scanning procedures. Users of University systems shall utilize the results of required scanning to facilitate proper handling of any and all PII identified.  Approved scanning  procedures are defined in Administrative Guideline ADG08.

    University approved scanning procedures will be developed to identify stored PII to facilitate proper handling. Users are responsible for remediating (i.e., securely removing, redacting) unauthorized instances of PII on their systems, unless prior written approval for storing PII has been granted by the Privacy Office.  The electronic storage of PII is prohibited, unless written approval has been fully granted.  If, however, the scanning identifies PII that also is subject to a litigation hold, please contact the Office of General Counsel before remediating. Subject to the constraints of this Policy regarding authorization, the University also reserves the right to perform automated checks to detect and respond to the possible exfiltration of PII over its computer networks. Periodic security scans for PII will be administered to detect unauthorized instances of PII, when necessary. Deliberate failure to remediate unauthorized instances of PII may result in disciplinary action.

    VENDOR CONTRACTS – In the event that a unit, department, or individual seeks to enter into a contract that involves PII, that particular unit, department, or individual is responsible for ensuring that adequate and appropriate safeguards and contractual provisions are in place relating to the collection, access, use, dissemination, and/or storage of this PII before entering the contract.  Moreover, before a unit, department, or individual enters into a contract that involves the use of PII, that unit, department, or individual must (1) notify and consult every other unit or department across the University involved, either directly or indirectly, about the necessity for PII in the performance of the contract, (2) seek approval from every other unit or department across the University whose interests in or records of PII may be disclosed or utilized in performance of the contract, and (3) seek approval from the Privacy Office. The applicable safeguards shall be documented in writing in an appropriate manner to ensure compliance.


    For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Privacy Office.


    Other Policies should also be referenced, especially:

    AD11 - University Policy on Confidentiality of Student Records

    AD20 - Computer and Network Security

    AD22– Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

    AD23 - Use of Institutional Data

    AD35– University Archives and Records Management

    AD65 - Electronic Security and Access Systems (formerly SY33)

    AD71 - Data Categorization

    AD83 – Institutional Financial Conflict of Interest

    ADG01 - Glossary of Computerized Data and System Terminology

    ADG02 - Computer Security Guideline

    ADG07 - Data Categorization Examples

    ADG08 - Collection, Storage and Authorized Use of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) and Penn State Identification Numbers

    HR60 - Access to Personnel Files

    RA02 - Addressing Allegations of Research Misconduct (Formerly RA10, Handling Inquiries/Investigations Into Questions of Ethics in Research and in Other Scholarly Activities)

    RP07– HIPAA and Research at Penn State University

    RP08– HIPAA and Research at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine

    Effective Date: February 22, 2016
    Date Approved: February 22, 2016
    Date Published: February 22, 2016

    Most recent changes:

    Revision History (and effective dates):

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