Tuesday, February 2, 2016

It's got to be serious when the NY Times notices

We have previously posted about the UC spyware matter which so far has largely roiled the Berkeley campus although it involves the entire system. But now the New York Times has taken up the issue:

...The Berkeley dispute stands out because of the place and personalities involved. U.C. Berkeley is not only a leading producer of computer science talent, but also a champion of the free speech movement, so any surveillance is regarded as particularly jarring. For her part, Ms. Napolitano, who joined the California university system in 2013, is no stranger to computer security policy, having served four years as the nation’s Homeland Security chief. The faculty group of 11 professors critical of the monitoring program said the university system enacted the program largely in private, with little transparency about what data is being collected. The monitoring could compromise and constrain academic freedom to research topics that some find objectionable, among other repercussions, they said. In a formal meeting with the University of California’s chief information officer in December, the professors asked for the program to be halted. On Jan. 19, Ms. Napolitano’s staff responded in a five-page reply declining to do so; the letter was emailed last Friday to the entire Berkeley faculty and others. The University of California defended the security initiative as a measured step under the circumstances, and added that “for cybersecurity purposes, a risk to what appears to be an isolated system at only one location may in some circumstances create risk across locations or units.” The university said Ms. Napolitano was not available for an interview. Steve Montiel, press secretary for the president’s office, said he was not aware of any complaints from other campuses about the monitoring program...

Full story at

And talking about out-of-state newspapers noticing privacy issues at UC, here is the Washington Post:

Four students and alumni from the University of California-Berkeley have sued Google in federal court, alleging that the company — which runs the university’s email accounts — illegally intercepted and scanned emails for advertising purposes without students’ knowledge or consent. Google’s Gmail service is a core feature of Google Apps for Education, which is provided for free to thousands of K-12 schools and universities and is used by more than 30 million students and teachers nationwide, according to the complaint. The lawsuit alleges that Google misled Berkeley and other institutions into believing that school email accounts would not be subject to scanning for commercial purposes. The schools, in turn, assured their students and staff of their privacy. But, the complaint alleges, Google was scanning and analyzing emails to serve targeted advertisements to students until April 30, 2014, when the company announced via a blog post that it had “permanently removed all ads scanning” in its email service for schools, “which means that Google cannot collect or use student data in Apps for Education services for advertising purposes.”...
Full story at

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