October 24 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 31  

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NEWS

Student e-mails not private, stored by ITS

By Jonathan Yazer
Gazette Staff

Now that Big Brother has a computer, students at Western should realize their e-mails are not entirely private.

"Students should understand two things: one, despite the fact they hit delete or purge, their e-mail remains somewhere; secondly, there are ways to recover those e-mails," said Jim Etherington, president of the Western Alumni Association.

Debbie Jones, director of Information Technology Services, addressed Western's Senate in October following an inquiry made by Etherington.

Jones explained everything on all computer accounts at Western, including e-mail, is saved in a database. "Backups of the UWO server are done every night. The information is available for up to two months," she said.

According to Jones, information is saved for two reasons. For one, if students or faculty delete an important e-mail, they can request its retrieval. "You may request your own e-mail back, but this isn't very common," she said.

"Sometimes the authorities make a request to look at certain e-mails if they have reason to believe that the security of another human being is at risk," Jones said, adding the London Police Department has done this on several occasions.

Jones stressed the information collected is not monitored. "We get like seven million e-mails a day. There's no way we monitor them."

Student Senator Dave Vaillancourt said this was reassuring. "For me personally, it was an eye-opener," he said, adding most students probably are not aware their e-mails are stored in a database.

"There are privacy issues here. But since the university in particular is producing a service and we the users can do whatever we want, the storage of e-mails is probably a good idea, legally speaking," Vaillancourt said. "If someone with a UWO account is sending death threats, it's important."

Jones compared sending an e-mail to sending a postcard. In both cases, the sender and recipient are both aware the information contained within those documents is not private.

 

 

 

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