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Harvard Secretly Searched Deans' Email 113

Posted by timothy
from the scream-like-howard-dean dept.
theodp writes "Taking a page from HP's playbook, Harvard University administrators secretly searched the emails of 16 deans last fall, looking for a leak to reporters about a case of cheating. The deans were not warned about the email access and only one was told of the search afterward. Dean and CS prof Michael Smith said in an email Sunday that Harvard will not comment on personnel matters or provide additional information about the board cases that were concluded during the fall term. Smith's office and the Harvard general counsel's office authorized the search, according to a Boston Globe report. Smith's Harvard bio notes that his entrepreneurial experience included co-founding and selling Liquid Machines, where Smith coincidentally invented a software technique designed to keep unauthorized people from reading electronic documents."
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Harvard Secretly Searched Deans' Email

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  • by gagol (583737) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @02:44PM (#43132655)
    It was always made clear to me that my work email could be monitored for any reason. Dean or janitor, you are an employee.
  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:01PM (#43132723)
    The point is whether, given the supposedly Enlightenment ideals of the Western idea of a university, they should have done. If they are just a corporation that educates people for money, that is one thing. If they are a university set up to stand for the possibility of a better society, that is another. Personally I prefer universities when they fight corporatism, not when they support it.
  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby.comcast@net> on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:20PM (#43132833)

    When you work for someone you need to assume that your email is read, your website are logged, your SSL traffic decrypted and your computer inventoried. It is also a fairly safe assumption that login, logoff times, screenshots and keyboard strokes as well as mouse movements are all routinely captured.

    Depending on your place of employment many of these big brother activities are demanded by law (SEC etc). It's not a question of whether or not you like or the IT department likes it, because neither of you do. It's a question of someone /way/ up your food chain has made the decision to perform that level of monitoring. If your going to get mad, get mad at the VP, the legal team, the SEC, or other person typically at the VP level that had the power to demand the level of logging to begin with.

    To illustrate my point on how these things are often driven by and watched from the top you need only look at Yahoo. Their new CEO looked at the VPN logs when she saw the parking lot emptier than she thought it should be. She concluded people were slacking off and not really working and ended telecommuting for everyone at Yahoo. This was a data driven decision based on the logs that Yahoo's servers kept and their CEO reviewed.

    I'm not justifying this, I'm not defending this, I'm simply explaining how these things work in the real world.

  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:22PM (#43132853)
    just look at what happened to (and is still happening to) Bradley Manning... Whistle-blowers beware...
  • by khallow (566160) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:24PM (#43132863)

    Personally I prefer universities when they fight corporatism

    You do realize that almost all universities (including Harvard [harvard.edu]) are corporations? Corporatism is hard to fight when it is the default organizational style for everything beyond the size of a few people.

  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:33PM (#43132919)

    "Faculty, tenured ones doubly so, are treated as a very special flavor of employee, one whose independence, so much as it can be preserved while still getting them to show up for scheduled classes and not perv out on undergrads, is considered to be one of their major valuable features."

    But nonetheless they think that these people are dumb enough to use their work email to leak stuff from work?

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:40PM (#43132961)
    I note I was down-nodded for an honest statement of opinion. It looks like a lot of people on /. approve of Big Brother. But you miss the point. Corporatism is giving rights to corporations that supersede what we in Europe call human rights. The existence of corporations does not imply corporatism if individual rights are protected.

    As an example, the Netherlands has an army but is not militaristic. North Korea has an army, and it is.

  • No privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Emperor Tiberius (673354) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:42PM (#43132973) Homepage
    When are people going to learn that they have no privacy on their employer's computer systems? Geeks and IT folks seem to have the biggest problem with this. If you really need that privacy, go out to your car on your lunch hour and use your smartphone. At the end of the day, it's your employer's power, bandwidth, space, and equipment. If they want to monitor their systems, they have every right to do so. Now obviously, some monitoring is a huge gray area when it comes to moral and ethical issues. So why not simply side step the issue by using your own person accounts, devices, and access?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:45PM (#43132985)

    Here we have a story about how students, generally of wealth and privilege, being caught cheating, and being handed less severe sentences then are handed out by low ranking local state schools. Adding to that, the school's biggest concern now seems to be to get whomever had the audacity to air Harvard's dirty laundry.

    Slashdot reaction? Silly noobs, e-mail is insecure. Employers have the right to search company e-mail.

    Hey guys, how about concern about what these people are teaching the kids who, let's face it, will be future congresscritters and other leaders. Hey, it's OK to cheat, just don't get caught, or else you'll get a slap on the wrist. Oh, and be sure to exact revenge on whoever lets the plebs know.

  • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:54PM (#43133049)

    Normal whistle blowers have legal protection... When you whistle blow THE LAW that's what you get. They probably will push to execute him. The military doesn't have provisions for whistle blowing against the civilians.. Spreading secrets is treason... Even if when people label their own treason "secret".

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @05:44PM (#43133713)
    Everything relates to academic independence. It's the diplomatic immunity of the academic world.

"Being against torture ought to be sort of a bipartisan thing." -- Karl Lehenbauer