Student e-mails not private, stored
By Jonathan Yazer
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
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
"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.