The new semester begins today at George Mason University and I am very glad to see the students back on campus. It gets a little boring around here without them and I am really looking forward to spending time with them in class, in discussions in my office, and around campus in various venues.
One thing that has dampened my usual enthusiasm for the new semester is a new university policy on digital privacy that we are all required to sign. The policy reads:
I understand that this policy stipulates that no user shall have any expectation of privacy in any message, file, image or data created, sent, retrieved, received, or posted in the use of the University’s equipment and/or access. I further understand that the University has a right to monitor any and all aspects of electronic communications and social media usage. Such monitoring may occur at any time, without notice, and without the user’s permission. In addition, except for exemptions under the Act, electronic records may be subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and, therefore, available for public distribution.
I’m not clear on the degree to which this new policy trumps federal or state laws governing student privacy, our rights as researchers to engage in such confidential things as peer review of colleagues, etc.