You didn’t hear about it here, right?

You didn't hear about it here

“Ars spoke with Steven Lareau, the IT chair for Clemson’s student advisory council. According to Lareau, Clemson previously “had an awful web-based e-mail system” (SquirrelMail). Lareau says that they compared Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange combo with Gmail, and Gmail came out on top.”

When I see students frustratingly loose USB drives with their term papers, have to use multiple online systems like BlackBoard or another CMS, and a University email system all which typically do not facilitate communication for group assignments resulting in rounds of emailed documents where there are no IM clients to connect with fellow students in their classes who all use some kind of online presence like MySpace or FaceBook to keep up on their social lives and talk about their classes, I come to completely understand those students’ view of an overly-distant-administrative-technological bureaucracy that seems to clearly not be paying attention to who is really using the technology. Several students where I’m getting my masters have already signed up for Google Apps Team Edition. I don’t doubt the time will be here soon when we have a critical mass of students avoiding closed, stale, clunky, university email and comfortably collaborating online.

TTW Contributor: Lee LeBlanc

6 thoughts on “You didn’t hear about it here, right?”

  1. My concern about this, though, is privacy. Google seems to cave pretty quickly on privacy issues when the governments come a’calling. At ALA, I was frustrated with our previous email system and considered just using Gmail. But then I realized it’s difficult to call Google out on issues, fight their more invasive efforts, and be on the opposite side in court when your email is running through them. I wasn’t comfortable with that thought so worked to change the system and now we use something different. If enough of those students complained to the university, they might be able to affect change, too.

    I would love to see library schools teach more about privacy issues, both for librarians personally and how they can then help educate their communtiies. The dilemma you raise would be a great opportunity to discuss with students the pros and cons of using a third-party email service like Gmail versus other workarounds. We all use a lot more web-based, third party services these days, but are we really thinking through what we’re putting on them and the possible consequences? I think convenience versus privacy is going to become a more prominent issue during the next few years.

  2. There must be different versions of Blackboard that people are using. The one my school uses has a group function where you can add documents to a group clipboard, chat with group members, and also use a group forum. It is actually a pretty good deal, compared to using email to coordinate a group project.

  3. I agree with Jenny that these kinds of things are great opportunities to talk about privacy and where you put your data.

    My (work) campus is thinking about dropping our old student email system and switching to Gmail. For a cash strapped institution, it’s really hard to argue against free. Plus the majority of students use Gmail already. What I would like is an option- you can sign up for Gmail, or you can have an IMAP account that you can use with whatever email client you want.

    At my school (not the same as the university above) we are given email accounts that MUST be accessed though an outlook web interface. To access all the features (like email forwarding) you have to use internet explorer. Drives. me. nuts.

  4. Solid points Jenny. Users should be presented, in clear language, what loss of individual information privacy will occur. Services like gmail should default to a very secure privacy protocol. Universities shouldn’t just openly embrace Google without requiring different operating procedures to protect their users’ privacy.

    As a point of interest, it’s not just online giants like Google or Yahoo or Digg eroding privacy. The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles sells my personal information -unless you opt out. The only problem is they don’t tell you this as you’re getting your license. You would have had to go online find this out. With a large portion of the population still off-line, this greatly hinders their ability to control the privacy of their personal information.

    There is a black market trade of personal information online. Black in both senses: illegal and legal. People may have an idea about illegal attempts at their personal information but what about companies they “trust”? What are companies doing to protect the privacy of the individual? I would bet not much. Suuuuure, they all have wonderful privacy disclosures. A friend said were like sitting ducks if we use these services, freely, expecting the providers to default to harmless. It’s not so much that were sitting ducks, it’s that if someone wants some “piece” on information on you, they will get it.

    It would be foolish to believe using any free services doesn’t carry hidden costs and benefit, say Google’s gmail service, in many ways. Some uses may not even be that benign; Buying and selling of mass quantities of all kinds of information, aggregated information, still means your privacy can be eroded. Privacy disclosures tell you the limits, usually of personally identifiable information. But what about that information collected en mass? Zip code profiling, IP address tracking can still disclose general, personal information about you.

    The age of personal privacy may have never existed. If it did, I think it’s gone. Most people don’t how much their personal information drives a huge data business (extracted from their own personal lives).

    At present, there are so many holes in the Economics of Private Information that the most we can do is be the little Dutch Boy putting his finger in the dike. Patron education would be a huge first step. I’m amazed at how little my own peers (fellow LIS students) know about protecting their personal information. These are present and future information professionals. What does this show for the general population then? Would it be nice to have more help in this area? Sure. But, unless a giant swath of the US population (maybe the world) gets interested in having their private lives private, we won’t be able to affect any large scale changes to maintain control over ever diminishing sphere of privacy. I’m no pessimist either. In fact, I think we need a wake-up for people to realize if you’re not asked to opt-out: you have been opted-in. We had a minor one: the PATRIOT Act -the thought of what’s next is decidedly unpalatable.

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