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Privacy protected online, OIT says

With the advent of a new computer registration process, Office of Information Technology personnel can connect computers with their student owners in seconds, but concerns that this violates student privacy are unnecessary, officials said.

Computer registration, which began this semester in order to allow OIT to alert students more quickly when their computers were hacked, does not give anyone new access to student computers.

"Technically this would make it easier for someone to say, 'Look, there is traffic going to a pornography website. Let's find out who it is,'" said University Information Technology Security Officer Chris Cramer. He added, however, that the University does not have the capability to see students' Internet histories because the network does not have room to store that information. Only a half dozen people have access to the registration information.

"The registration policy is in place not so that [administrators] can sit there to monitor when you're talking to your friends," said sophomore Eileen Kuo, co-director of internal computing for Duke Student Government. "Students shouldn't worry about side effects; they should view it as a measure of security."

All OIT employees and Arts and Sciences system administrators who might have access to potentially sensitive student files also sign a confidentiality agreement that prevents them from viewing any confidential information not necessary to do their jobs. Confidential information, defined as "all non-public information that can be personally associated with an individual" includes e-mail and web history.

"If someone violates the confidentiality agreement, they will quickly find themselves looking for a new job," said Cramer.

Students are protected by a privacy policy that allows administrators to view confidential information only if they have evidence of wrongdoing.

"We do not look for illegal activities on our network," Cramer said. "If we are informed of them or required to assist [law enforcement], we do so."

Although the guidelines for faculty and employee Internet use are ambiguous, the University does not restrict which websites students can visit. Students can use the University network for any act that does not violate University policies or laws.

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