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University’s lack of assurance on e-privacy troubling

One somewhat interesting news story that has been making the rounds over the past week surrounds the use of emails. Hillary Clinton, in her term as secretary of state, used only her personal email account for work-related issues, instead of a seemingly mandatory government one. This has caused a great deal of concern as people in the government are now unable to access the files and records from when she worked in the State Department.

First of all, it seems a bit ridiculous that Clinton went her entire term using her personal email address (probably monicablows@aol.com as some online sources have suggested) without someone making her set up and actually use the government’s email service. I would imagine after a month or so of not using the government email, someone would have approached Clinton and made her use the correct email system, but apparently that never happened. Secondly, I am surprised the government is actually concerned about gaining access to these records. It is pretty common knowledge that the government is already reading our emails and can access anyone’s phone or Internet records, or Edward Snowden is in exile for no reason after he disclosed shocking information to the American public last year that the government is spying on all of us. I’m sure they can gain access to Hillary Clinton’s personal email account, so they shouldn’t make it seem like they need to gain access to this information, but can’t find it. They can find it.

Of course, the federal government doesn’t want to admit to this practice, lest they lose all credibility and trust with the public, if they haven’t done so already. So they will probably continue this charade of making it seem like they can’t find Clinton’s emails and the national press will help them in doing so.

Yet it does bring up an interesting problem, as Hillary Clinton was probably somewhat cautious about using the government’s email service compared to using her own, or she was just lazy and didn’t want to learn something new. Assuming Clinton is as smart as she is made out to be, and there is no reason to suspect that she’s not, she was probably unwilling to conform to the protocol surrounding emails at the State Department.

Here at Brandeis, we are all provided with an email account. Students, faculty and staff are all on the server, even though, at this point, almost everyone has a personal email account. And the school’s administration probably has some sort of access to these email accounts, should they need it. There are multiple reasons why the school would want to look back into conversations, be it those between two students, two faculty or staff members or between a student and a faculty or staff member.

Not that I always wear a tinfoil hat, but its safe to assume that what we share over our Brandeis email accounts is being stored and could possibly be looked into should the need arise. Not just by the government, which is pretty much assumed at this point, but also by the school administration. Students should be a lot more cautious with what they share over email, if they aren’t already. Not that the government would care so much if you were to send someone a copy of an old test for a class, but when it comes to matters of academic integrity, the school administration would very much be interested in looking into that.

However, when the “concerned” listserv was reported on last year, the university seemed to be surprised that these sorts of conversations were going on. President Lawrence has explicitly stated his displeasure about some of the comments that were made by some people on that listserv, and certainly the resulting publicity was not something the university wanted to be out in the public. These problems probably mean that the school truly had no idea this was occurring, since if they did they most likely would have tried to stop it somehow. Since that didn’t happen, the university might not be actively checking our emails.

Yet we shouldn’t throw caution the wind and just trust the administration wholeheartedly. Instead, we should assume that if the need arises, the school will look into our emails and not show any remorse in doing so. The administration already tries to control so much else of our lives, such as having strict requirements on what club sweatshirts can say and wanting people to register their parties with the school to make sure there isn’t an excess amount of people or loud noise. The government already does it, businesses do it and eventually our university will spy on us through our emails as well.

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