[iDC] cloud computing and the university

Jesse Drew jdrew at ucdavis.edu
Fri Jun 11 15:32:31 UTC 2010

fyi, I was on the Google App test group at UC Davis.  Here is the official letter that went out on why we rejected it:

April 30, 2010 
To: UC Davis Faculty and Staff 
Re: Discontinuation of Assessment to Outsource Email for Faculty and Staff 
We write to inform you of a recent decision to discontinue consideration of “outsourcing” UC Davis email for faculty and staff, including to Google. Vice Provost Pete Siegel made this recommendation to the Chancellor and Provost based on extensive community consultation as well as a campus assessment of the UC Electronic Communications Policy and increased privacy risks that have come to light in recent weeks. The Academic Senate Committee on Information Technology and the Campus Council for Information Technology concur with this decision. 
First, there are new concerns that outsourcing email may not be in compliance with the University of California Electronic Communications Policy. The policy states that the University “does not examine or disclose electronic communications records without the holder's consent" and that "in no case shall electronic communications that contain personally identifiable information about individuals be sold or distributed to third parties without the explicit permission of the individual." Though there are different interpretations of these sections, the mere emergence of significant disagreement on these points undermines confidence in whether adopting Google’s Gmail service would be consistent with the policy. 
Second, and of greater importance, were the views of faculty and staff. We especially appreciated the active involvement and contributions of many faculty, both as participants in the Gmail pilot project and in discussions of potential risks and opportunities. Although preliminary feedback from volunteer testers was positive, many other faculty expressed concern that our campus’ commitment to protecting the privacy of their communications is not demonstrated by Google and that the appropriate safeguards are neither in place at this time nor planned for the near future. These concerns were echoed in recent news reports and in a letter released last week by the privacy commissioners from ten countries. The letter criticized Google's perceived inattention to protecting user privacy and called on the company to incorporate fundamental privacy and data protection principles directly into the design of new online services. Perhaps this broad international attention to Google’s privacy practices will lead to progress. 
Although outsourcing is no longer under consideration, the need to provide UC Davis with a more flexible and effective central email system remains. As a next step, we suggest that, jointly with the Academic Senate, a committee be established in the coming months to identify essential campus email features and capabilities. Its discussions would be informed by reports from the Gmail Assessment Committee, the Unified Communications Workgroup, and the UC Email Task Force. All three initiatives, as well as the experience and perspectives of faculty and staff involved in them, will be critical to defining a functional, reliable and secure email system for UC Davis. 
We express our sincere appreciation to the faculty and staff who participated in the Gmail pilot project, to the faculty who have come forward with comments and concerns, and to the staff who work so diligently to create and support our campus systems. We also appreciate the collegiality UC DAVIS: OFFICE OF THE VICE PROVOST INFORMATION & EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA (Letterhead for interdepartmental use) 
that has characterized this assessment of email outsourcing, and we look forward to more collaboration in defining a central email system that can meet the needs of our campus.

-Jesse Drew

On Jun 11, 2010, at 4:52 AM, Ulises Mejias wrote:

> This is related to the topic of education. My school (part of the
> State University of New York) recently decided, like many others
> schools, to take advantage of the 'free' Google Apps for Education. In
> the face of $410 million in budget cuts in the past two years, SUNY
> schools are obviously looking for ways to save money. The following is
> a letter I wrote (and published in our college newspaper) to alert our
> community of some of the implications of the switch to Google.
> Maybe brick and mortar campuses are being replaced with
> open/distributed learning networks, but education still requires
> plenty of *structures,* and it is always interesting to ask how they
> are organized.
> Keep in mind this was written with a general audience in mind.
> -------
> As most of you have heard, our campus is getting ready to migrate our
> email system to Google sometime in the Fall. The move seems like a
> sweet deal: we get not just better functioning email, but a full menu
> of apps including calendaring, document creation and sharing, file
> storage, and chat -- all at no cost! On top of that, the services
> offered through Google Apps for Education come with no adds, 2.5 gigs
> of storage, and you get to keep your oswego.edu email tag, from what I
> hear. What's not to like?
> Well, plenty, if you ask me. But before I share my concerns, let me
> disclose two important facts: One, I myself use certain Google
> products (who doesn't?). Two, I have a lot of respect for the people
> who made the decision to migrate to Google, and I understand the
> reasons why the switch is pretty much inevitable. Thus, this is not an
> attempt to reverse the decision (even if we could afford to), but
> simply to bring more awareness about what life under our Google
> overlords might mean.
> In my Media Economics class, we discuss the positive and negative
> impacts of having a handful of media corporations control pretty much
> everything we see and hear. It's easy to see the inordinate power that
> companies like News Corp, Disney or Time Warner have on our daily
> lives. But Google is soon going to make those companies look like
> charming mom and pop operations. Google is creating a monoculture
> where people believe Google is all they need. Think about the impact
> of having one company control all the software for your computer and
> your mobile phone, and one company handling all your personal data,
> tracking everything you do through its suite of information and media
> products and keeping the data for up to 18 months.
> What does Google want to do with all that data? Figure out how to
> better direct advertisements to you, of course! Let's not forget that
> Google, a company with a market value of $200 billion, derives 97% of
> its revenue from advertising. The more Google knows about you, the
> better it can target ads at you and make more money -- and Google
> wants to know EVERYTHING about you! This perhaps explains why the
> company has a venture capital arm that is currently investing in
> biotech, genetics, energy, telecom, healthcare, and other things. So
> while switching to GMail doesn't mean that we will start seeing adds
> for Viagra or teeth whitening products next to our Inbox, it does
> probably mean that Google will be scanning our emails and documents in
> an effort to collect more information about us, their users.
> In essence this means that by using Google, all SUNY Oswego community
> members will effectively be working to increase the company's bottom
> line. Now, perhaps I'm fooling myself by thinking that because I
> CHOOSE to use certain Google products, I can exercise some control and
> responsibility. But being forced to use ALL Google products is quite a
> different matter (what's the alternative? not using email at school?).
> And this is another feature of life under oligopolies, that while
> seeming to open up more choices, the arena for choice is actually
> being limited. Furthermore, by using Google we are effectively
> endorsing its corporate policies on privacy, security and intellectual
> property issues. This is problematic at best, for reasons I don't have
> the time to get into right now.
> Yes, plenty of universities have already jumped on the bandwagon and
> saved tons on money. Arizona State is saving $500,000 a year.
> University of Washington laid off 66 IT workers (although that's not
> necessarily a good thing, is it?). But a few schools are having
> serious concerns. The faculty union at Lakehead University, for
> instance, filed a grievance citing concerns about privacy and academic
> freedom. Apparently those cooky Canadians are worried that since
> Google is a US company, it is obligated to hand over any data that the
> US government wants to see, like faculty's emails. You might be
> thinking: "We don't have to worry about that! We are in the US and
> already subject to warrant-less surveillance!" Well, it is Google's
> obligations to OTHER countries that worries Yale University, who
> recently decided to postpone its migration to Google because of
> concerns about cloud computing. You see, in order to have some data
> redundancy, Google stores your personal information randomly in 3 of
> its 450,000 servers located all over the world. So the folks at Yale
> are wondering whether Google is obligated to surrender your data
> according to the laws of THOSE countries. In other words, if my email
> data is stored in Israel or Malaysia, does that give those governments
> the right to monitor it? (of course, even if Google wants to protect
> your data, the fact of the matter is that it is a more alluring target
> for hackers than a small state college, as demonstrated recently when
> some users' GMail accounts were broken into by Chinese hackers).
> [UPDATE: UC Davis also ditched GMail over concerns that it did not
> comply with the University of California Electronic Communications
> Policy, which forbids the university from examining the contents of
> e-mails without the consent of the user.]
> In the end, I suppose Google is no more evil or no less evil than
> Apple, Microsoft, or any other media company. Yes, it is quickly
> becoming a bigger monopoly, and that's probably not good for the
> public OR for the market. But what troubles me more about our
> migration to Google is what it says about the increasing privatization
> of education, and our failure to support and fund the public
> university. Maybe it's naive to think that public education can remain
> free of for-profit interests. But it will certainly be more difficult
> to maintain that separation now that we will all be working for
> Google.
> Ulises Mejias
> Communication Studies Dept, SUNY Oswego
> http://ulisesmejias.com
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Jesse Drew, Ph.D.
Director, Technocultural Studies
University of California at Davis
Art Building, Room 316
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616

jdrew at ucdavis.edu

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