Daniel J.H. Greenwood

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Preservation of Academic Freedom Introductory Statement

This introductory statement expresses the views of Prof. Greenwood and was not voted upon or approved by the Academic Senate.

The internet has aspects of a dark alley: an unpoliced place where large and poorly socialized people can do whatever they want without fear of being caught. It also has aspects of Orwell's 1984, where every action is monitored and no space is left for privacy or independent action.

Our professionals are under regular pressures to limit the first of these: to find ways to suppress or trace viruses, limit spam, police crime, and now, under the Patriot Act, assist the government in the pursuit of terrorists or -- perhaps -- its political opposition.

For example, in an academic environment, lost work is a major fear. Computer systems, therefore, must be designed with routine back-ups. But that means that all computer-based records survive after the user has attempted to delete them.

Similarly, the technology of the internet makes web-browsing appear anonymous even though it is easily monitored. In fact, the need to police viruses and other mis-use means that, on this campus, all internet use is routinely monitored.

Off-campus e-mailers, in contrast, currently can conceal their identities -- but solving the spam problem may well require eliminating that anonymity.

The Preservation of Academic Freedom Resolution seeks to help institutionalize a countervailing pressure to support the countervailing value: preserving liberty by preserving a space free of easy monitoring. Specifically, it seeks to reduce the number of records that could be used for improper or repressive witch hunts.

In a decent and free society, it should not be possible to recreate a patron's web searches or library reading. Deleted drafts and e-mails should at some point be gone for good, so that poorly considered or private words do not remain forever enshrined on an internet portal. Intemperate words, properly deleted, should not be forever available to future litigants or McCarthyite investigators.

Because freedom requires balancing both security and privacy, the Resolution uses primarily procedural mechanisms rather than specific regulation to seek to limit excessive record keeping and monitoring. In its operative language, the Resolution urges the administration and the computer staff to explicitly consider the necessary trade-offs between privacy and security and to regularly audit and report on the manner in which the trade-offs are being made in different parts of the University.


Preservation of Academic Freedom Resolution

Resolution approved by the University of Utah Faculty Senate,
August 30, 2004

Whereas, freedom of debate and freedom of thought, including academic freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to read, and freedom to criticize governmental and non-governmental actions and positions, are foundations of American liberty and essential to republican self-government;

Whereas, American and foreign history includes instances, including our own Alien and Sedition Acts and McCarthy-era blacklistings, in which governmental and non-governmental authorities have misused information regarding citizens' actual or purported political beliefs to suppress academic freedom and political dissent;

Whereas, recent statutory innovations empower governmental agencies to seize library and University records;

Whereas, recent technological changes affect the records the University may be keeping, intentionally or unintentionally;

Whereas, records kept are records that have the potential to be misused;

And whereas, it is the special responsibility of Universities to preserve and advance freedom of debate and the liberties of thought;

And recognizing

  • That civilized freedom exists in the interstices between complete anonymity and total monitoring;
  • That complete anonymity invites irresponsibility, abuse and criminality; while monitoring can stifle expression and dissent;
  • That free institutions must find a balance between anonymity and monitoring;
  • And that freedom requires private spaces in which citizen's actions are not anonymous yet not monitored, traceable only with difficulty and searchable only for good cause shown in specific instances;

Now therefore, the Faculty do hereby urge the Administration to cause the University to generate the minimum practical number and type of records that could be used to limit freedoms of debate and discussion, and in particular urge the Administration:

  1. to conduct an immediate audit of all current library, email and internet record-keeping practices throughout the University, and to conduct another such audit at least once every 5 years with the intent of identifying what is monitored and recorded, for what reason, and when the resulting information will be eliminated;
  2. to act to minimize or eliminate all practices that generate records of any identifiable faculty member, staff, student, citizen or patron's use, reading, borrowing, visiting, or downloading of identifiable books, printed or electronic media, email, or internet websites or locales, except as may be clearly necessary for explicitly stated University purposes;
  3. to direct University libraries to neither create nor retain records of materials (whether print, electronic or otherwise) read, used by, requested by or loaned to identifiable patrons (except while such materials are actually on loan to such individual);
  4. to direct all persons administering University computers or computer systems to configure such computers and systems so as to minimize network records of web browsing or downloads by identifiable individuals (including but not limited to faculty, staff and students), and to explicitly consider privacy concerns when generating records necessary for operation of the computer systems or protection against viruses, spam and similar misuse;
  5. to direct all persons administering University computers or computer systems to preserve the confidentiality of email addresses and to not disclose such addresses to persons outside the University
  6. to direct all persons administering University email and server systems to ensure that when a user "deletes" a file, email, or other locally produced or downloaded material, such file or material is in fact irretrievably deleted within a fixed and limited period from the University network together with all backup copies;
  7. to direct all persons administering University computer systems to configure such systems so as to limit to the maximum extent practical the access to individually identifiable materials, email and other records kept on the system;
  8. to create a written policy:
    • (A) setting out the procedures by and circumstances under which the University will generate and/or retain individually identifiable records of any faculty member, staff, student, citizen or patron's use, reading, borrowing, visiting, or downloading of identifiable books, printed or electronic media, email, or internet websites or locales,
    • (B) stating that it is the University’s policy to challenge by appropriate legal action in an appropriate court, any request, whether by legal process or otherwise, to create or disclose such records,
    • (C) stating that it is the University's policy not to disclose any such records to any individual or body outside of the University except when directed to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction, or by the individual person or patient whose private information is included in the record and
    • (D) stating that it is the University's policy to publicly disclose all such requests for records or the production of records (with the exception of requests by an individual for records concerning himself or herself); and

  9. to report to the Faculty annually:
    • (A) the results of the most recent audit of the University's record keeping procedures and any improvements or changes the Administration deems necessary or desirable to promote the goals of this Resolution,
    • (B) the types of individually identifiable records the University generates or retains of any faculty member, staff, student, citizen or patron's use, reading, borrowing, visiting, or downloading of identifiable books, printed or electronic media, email, or internet websites or locales,
    • (C) whether any requests to generate or disclose such individually identifiable records have been made (except for requests by individuals for their own records), and
    • (D) the University's response to each such request to generate or disclose individually identifiable records.


Submitted: Daniel J.H. Greenwood, Professor, S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah

 


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