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ID Card Security and Confidentiality

Uses of the Stanford ID card and electronic records of card activity

Although use of your Stanford ID across campus is expected to expand with time, it presently serves four primary purposes:

  • Permits eligible members of the Stanford community access to certain campus facilities and services.
  • Use as a meal card for student Dining Services.
  • Use as the debit card for one's StanfordCardPlan account.
  • Use as a library card for checking out books and other materials from the campus library system.

Electronic records of the first three activities are kept in the University IT campus card system. Library circulation records, however, are stored in independent electronic databases maintained by the University's libraries.

Access to campus facilities and services

The primary use of the Stanford ID Card is to verify a cardholder's status as a member of the Stanford community. To enter certain campus facilities—the various fitness centers, for example—one merely must show his or her Stanford ID Card. But increasingly, to gain access to other campus facilities and services, an individual must present his card, which is then "read" by an electronic scanner that verifies that the cardholder is eligible to use that facility or service. This system helps the University to ensure that the use of campus facilities and services is limited to eligible members of the Stanford community. Presently, the production and electronic scanning of the Stanford ID Card are required to enter certain libraries, including Green, Lane, and Law as well as the weight rooms at Arrillaga and Ford; to use the services offered by the Stanford Housing Office; to use the services of Vaden Student Health Center; to purchase discounted athletic tickets; to receive discounts from the Stanford Bookstore's Microdisc Department; and to obtain student loan checks from the Commerce & Banking Services (Cashier's) Office. It is expected that the number of campus facilities and services whose access requires the electronic scanning of the Stanford ID Card will increase in the future.

The information that is electronically recorded when an individual attempts to gain access to a campus facility or service is fairly innocuous. When the electronic scanners at Green Library or Vaden Health Center, for example, read an individual's card, they merely indicate whether or not the cardholder's status at the University makes her eligible to use that particular facility or service. The campus card system electronically records that at a certain time, the card belonging to a particular cardholder was read by that particular scanner, and whether access to that facility or service was permitted or denied. For example, if a faculty member entered Green Library on September 15, 2000 at 2:00 p.m., verification of his status as a member of the faculty would create a record stating that at that date and time his Stanford ID Card was read by a scanner identified only by a number and that X was indeed a current member of the faculty. Or, if Student Y visited Vaden Health Center to get a flu shot, a scan of his Stanford ID Card would create a record stating that at 2:34 p.m. on November 16, 2000, his card has read by a specific scanner and that Y, as a registered student, was eligible to use the Center.

Note: The electronic records created by these activities in the campus card system do not presently record any additional information about the cardholder's use of the facility or service. They do not, for example, show which books, if any, Faculty Member X may have checked out (library circulation records are maintained separately by the libraries). Similarly, they do not state what medical treatment Vaden has provided to a particular student, for example, that Student Y received a flu shot, or how much was charged for it. Moreover, neither record even indicates the specific campus facility or service to which access was requested. The records only note that a particular scanner, identified by a corresponding number, read the card; the records do not indicate, for example, that card scanners at Green Library or Vaden Health Center correspond with particular scanner numbers.

Student Meal Card

The second widespread use of the Stanford ID Card is as a student's meal card. The campus card system electronically stores information about the meal plan to which a student subscribes, for example, whether he has paid for the 12-meal-a-week plan or the 19-meal-a-week plan. When the student goes through the food line in one of the dining halls managed by the University Food Service, his card is scanned. The record notes that at a particular time a certain scanner number read the card of a particular student and deducts one meal from that student's meal count for the week. The record does not indicate any additional or more specific information, such as what or how much food the student consumed during the meal.


The third main use of the Stanford ID Card is to record an individual's StanfordCardPlan Account activity. The StanfordCardPlan is a pre-paid expense plan that enables students to purchase goods and services from on-campus venues, including the eating facilities at Tresidder Union, vending machines, copiers, and the bookstore.

The StanfordCardPlan allows cardholders who have paid money into their Card Plan Accounts to use the card in the place of cash. For example, a student can present her card to pay for a meal at Tresidder's Baker Street Cafe. When the cashier scans the card, it is electronically recorded that at that particular time, a particular scanner number read the campus card of that student, and the cost of the meal is debited from her account. For example, it might record that Scanner No. 47 scanned the card of Student Q at 12:05 p.m. on May 13, 2000, and that $4.15 was debited from her account. However, it presently would not make any record of what specific items a student purchased or how much specific items cost.

Maintenance and protection of campus card electronic records

The campus card system is a closed, proprietary system that runs on its own hardware and software. The hardware for the system is housed on campus, and direct access to the system is generally limited to the manager of the Campus Card Services. Workstations in the Commerce & Banking Services (Cashier's) Office, Dining Services, Green Library, and Crown Law Library can also access certain types of information in the campus card system.

The campus card system is completely separate from the student Axess system, which includes a student's grades, academic history, and tuition paid. The Card system receives students' registration status from the Registry, which is fed from Axess, and meal-plan status, which is fed from NSI just as it receives the current employment status of faculty and staff from the Persona system. These systems do not feed any other information, such as the cost of a student's meal plan or a staff member's salary, into the campus card system.

Every electronic Stanford ID Card transaction is recorded and remains on the active campus card system for one month. After a month, the records are transferred to optical disks, which are stored on campus. At the present time, the optical disks are kept indefinitely and are not destroyed, erased, or copied. In addition, the campus card system is backed up on optical disks each day, to ensure that the database can be restored in the event of a system failure. The backup disks are kept for seven days, after which they are reused. The data on both the disks containing the monthly records and the backup disks are stored in a proprietary format that can be read only by the campus card system software. As a result, the information on the disks is extremely secure, as only University IT can retrieve data off the disks.

Disclosure of information in the Stanford ID card database is limited

The Registrar generally will not release information about transactions resulting from use of a card to anyone other than the cardholder without either the cardholder's consent or a subpoena. Some exceptions exist, for example, federal statutes regulating use of electronic cards may impose requirements on issuers, merchants or others, such as with respect to error resolutions. Disclosure likewise might be made, even without cardholder consent, if there is a health or safety emergency, or in connection with an alleged violent crime.

Disclosure of Stanford ID card photos

Photos taken for the Stanford ID card will be used only for University purposes approved by the Registrar. Upon written request by faculty, student photos may be included as part of printed class lists.

Students may prohibit the release of their photo outside of the access and transaction systems by designating which items should not be released on the Privacy function of Axess. Students may prohibit the release of all directory information after an appointment with the Office of the University Registrar to discuss the ramifications of this action. For more information about your directory settings please visit University Policies and Statement.

Staff and faculty photos taken for and included on the Stanford ID card do not automatically appear on any university websites, in any applications outside of the access and transaction systems, or in any printed materials. However, upon approval by University Human Resources, staff and faculty photos may be included on specified websites, applications or as part of printed materials. Even with this approval from Human Resources, your photo will only appear if you have changed the visibility setting from Private to Stanford or Public.

Staff and faculty can manage the visibility settings for their Stanford ID card image using the StanfordYou application. To learn how to change your privacy settings, see How do I set privacy settings for my Stanford ID card image?

Disclosure of Stanford ID card information

ID card information cannot be disclosed for two step authentication, that must be requested through the Help Desk.

Last modified March 13, 2020