The Sensitive Information Remediation Project, better known as Project SIR, is a campus-wide initiative with the purpose to scan, find, delete and/or secure sensitive information. Project SIR is being implemented across campus by units, departments and individuals invested in the protection of sensitive information on campus.

We talked to Dean Jack Richman from the School of Social Work about why he took the initiative to scan his workstation using IdentityFinder, Project SIR’s file scanning software. His experience highlights the value and importance of scanning at the individual level, as well as for leadership around campus to stress the importance of scanning to their colleagues.

A way to protect yourself and others

Dean Richman had a very common experience with his IdentityFinder scan — he found mostly his own information, such as his passport number and society security number on documents from years of travel.

When asked why others should scan, he replied, “One [reason] is they protect themselves because, at least in my experience, it’s going to be more of my own stuff than it is other people’s stuff.”

“Secondarily, when we are doing research, we take on the responsibility to project the subjects that we are asking to give us information, and we have an obligation to protect that, whether they’re children, or families, or whoever they are.”

The security landscape has changed

Over the course of many faculty and administrators’ careers, the role and use of data has changed drastically.

“I started in academia in 1977,” said Dean Richman. “We didn’t have computers. Everything was files, so it meant locking them in your drawers, and alphabetizing, and having manila folders, and trying to remember what was in there, so data was very different.”

Our ever-changing and transforming technology-based world means that the role and use of data and information changes constantly. The needs associated with protecting that information also changes. This is why Project SIR has become such a crucial campus-wide initiative.

A ‘professional obligation’ to protect information

For Dean Richman, one of the most important aspects of Project SIR and ITS’ proactive approach to reduce the risk of sensitive data exposure on campus is the shared social responsibility.

“It’s a professional obligation,” he said, “and in the School of Social Work, most of the work that we do is with real human subjects, so it may be that in other units, they’re looking at chemical processes or statistical equations. They have a very different sort of perspective, but I would say close to 100 percent of what we do here involves humans, so we take it very seriously.”

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