January 27, 2015

UChicago revamps IT and user data policy

The University is introducing a newly updated policy on information technology and user data. The previous policy, which had been in effect since 2000, was reportedly outdated in “technology, regulatory climate, and broadening dialogue on individual privacy concerns,” according to an email sent to the student body by Ronald Thisted, the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.

In collaboration with the faculty Board of Computing Activities and Services and the Council of the University Senate, the new policy was formed to ensure and “enhance the transparency and accountability of [the university’s] internal processes as well as to articulate and promote the ethical, legal, and secure use of information technology by all members of the University of Chicago community,” as stated in the policy.

The new policy gives significant power to the University to access information from student accounts. Though the University assures the community that its main priority is to respect users’ privacy interests, the policy emphasizes the University’s ability to access any University-related information on any user’s personal computer, laptop, cell phone, or other electronic device in case of an “imminent threat to other users or to the University’s technology infrastructure or in case of a violation of the University’s policies, legal duties, or contractual obligations.”

The policy also lists several specific courses of actions in the situation that the University technology is being used in such a way that it “poses a likely violation of the law of University Policy,” such as changing passwords, disabling computers, or even removing access rights altogether.

The policy, announced January 21, has since taken effect.