PRIVACY Universities should NOT be allowed to monitor their networks for so-called “improper activity.” Eric Blatt, Molly Fulweiler, Evan Oxman, Damon Villaronga, http://www.jobpostings.ca/articles/images/summer01/privacy.jpg
Ownership of Network • “College students are private citizens, they’re not employees of the university. They are paying to be there, and in a lot of cases because they are paying, they’re actually paying for the use off the university network.” -Annalee Newitz • In situations where students must live in dorms, university networks are the only source of high speed internet. • Since the universities have a monopoly over this, they should provide rights that one would expect from any other service provider, such as AOL.
Network Police Force? • Being the RIAA’s police force is both a burden to the university and impractical. • To meet the RIAA’s expectations, the university would have to monitor nearly all communications, wasting money and resources that could be better used elsewhere. • “Network surveillance and enforcement is likely to lead to an escalation network “arms race,” potentially harming overall network integrity and performance.” –EPIC Letter on P2P Monitoring to Colleges and Universities. • While Universities claim they must protect their available bandwidth, such monitoring can actually decrease it.
A Slippery Slope towards Big Brother? • If a university can infringe on some privacy rights, what will prevent it from infringing on others? --various cases of blocking/interfering with legitimate activity --sets up a culture of distrust and implies that all students have malicious intentions • A university is a unique site that deserves special protection to protect academic freedom and free speech. --“Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die” --Chief Justice Earl Warren (Sweezy v. New Hampshire) --Thus, any interference with privacy rights could lead to censorship and fear of being monitored/punished for unpopular opinions ("[w]hat may begin as logging activity to protect the efficient and effective functioning of one system can become targeted data collection and surveillance of a specific individual.”1) 1 Virginia E. Rezmierski & Nathaniel St. Clair, II, Identifying Where Technology Logging and Monitoring for Increased Security Ends and Violations of Personal Privacy and Student Records Begin, Final Report of the National Science Foundation Logging and Monitorin Project (2001), at <http://www.aacrao.org/publications/catalog/NSF-Lamp.pdf>
How do we define “improper activity”? • University policies are overly broad and ambiguous • By leaving the definition of ‘improper activity’ solely in the hands of administrators, there is little to prevent an abuse of power. • For example, if we were to define ‘improper activity’ as illegal activity, would a university be justified in reading emails to see where underage drinking events might be occurring?
Conclusion: A Balance is Necessary • A university must monitor its network to some degree (checking for viruses for example), but it should do so solely for the benefit of students (not the RIAA or the police). • Clear guidelines have to be put in place (not ambiguous and meaningless phrases) • The benefits of providing unfettered access to communications technologies for students and scholars far outweigh the costs of some minor infractions that will always occur. --By creating a culture of mistrust and secrecy, the positive effects of the Internet on community building in academic settings will be stifled.