Student cell phone numbers, personal addresses and emails are available by default through NIU’s directory, after an update last week.
NIU updated its online directory, making student information only available to those with a university login, but revealing personal information behind that wall. The older version of the directory did not have an authentication barrier, but student email was the only accessible information.
Students can hide their personal information on the directory through the following steps:
- Go to directory.niu.edu.
- Click “Login” on the right side of the screen.
- Enter your Z-ID and password.
- Once logged in, click “Self-Service” on the left side of the screen.
- Click “Modify your profile.”
- Login again with your Z-ID and password.
- Click “Edit Your Information” to the right of your name.
- Click mark the “Hide” option on each attribute listed.
- Click “Save Changes.”
Chief Information Officer Matt Parks said this information was available on the directory before the update, but fewer people authenticated, or logged in, when they were searching. Most people using the directory were looking for emails, which were accessible without authenticating.
Parks said the update was meant to put student information behind authentication, so people outside the university couldn't access student emails. The update was not meant to reveal more information, he said.
"I totally get the concern," he said. "Had people been authenticating before, these concerns would have been brought up sooner."
The university will be changing the directory to hide the information by default by the end of the month, Parks said.
Aziz Zeidieh, senior communication major, said he noticed the change last Thursday while trying to look up a professor’s email and was immediately concerned.
“From a social engineering standpoint, you can do a lot of damage with that data,” he said.
The university used to print directories containing student addresses and phone numbers. Parks said DoIT converted that information into the online directory about eight years ago.
He said the more immediate visibility of the information after the update has raised questions of whether this information should be readily accessible.
"Privacy means more today than it did seven to eight years ago," he said.
Zeidieh said he logged in and set his information to be hidden, but it took at least 12 hours for his data to update.
He said he was able to find the information of someone who had left without graduating NIU three years ago. That person was unable to login to set their information to hidden since his login was no longer valid, he said.
Parks said IT is implementing a system for accounts that will prevent old accounts from staying in the system for long.
For now, students who cannot login but are concerned about their information can call NIU’s IT at 815-753-8100, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and request a password reset, Parks said.
Editor's note: This article was updated 9 a.m. Oct. 2 with additional information provided by the university.