free html hit counter Watch What You Do While Online: Universities (Including Mine) Log Students' Net Usage...Govt. and RIAA Take Notice - John Battelle's Search Blog

Watch What You Do While Online: Universities (Including Mine) Log Students' Net Usage…Govt. and RIAA Take Notice

By - November 11, 2003


Eye opening Salon piece on Universities’ practice of logging the net usage of their student populations. It notes that these practices are under review as the Patriot Act and RIAA are subpoenaing the logs, which many universities kept as a matter of course (why? who knows). This is another example of the power of the Database of Intentions (a term that is central to my book, and I promise, I’ll explain at some point). Interestingly, the Patriot Act may well be responsible for the widespread loss of this valuable resource (see excerpts).

Excerpts: “At the University of California at Berkeley, the everyday Web-surfing habits of students are regularly watched and recorded. Berkeley’s Systems and Network Security group uses a program called BRO — named after the infamous fascist icon from George Orwell’s “1984” — that keeps logs of every IP address students visit on the Internet from the campus network.

Cliff Frost, UC-Berkeley’s director of communication and network services, says that “this practice is under review right now,” because the campus community feels it interferes with academic freedom. He expects that the university will continue to keep logs but will discard them after a month or two. “I’d love to keep that data forever,” he adds, “if there weren’t the threats of subpoenas for vile purposes.” “


” The only way to defend student privacy against USA-PATRIOT subpoenas, says University of Michigan public policy professor Virginia Rezmierski, is for university IT departments to stop saving their logs. You can’t subpoena information that doesn’t exist. Rezmierski is the lead author of a 2001 National Science Foundation study of network monitoring and logging practices on college campuses.

“I don’t think this study made people very happy when it came out,” she says. “A lot of our findings were very disturbing.” She describes interviewing a college systems administrator for the study who told her that he had singled out one student and periodically logged everything he did on his computer “because [the student] was really competent with network operations and he seemed a suspicious type.” “

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5 thoughts on “Watch What You Do While Online: Universities (Including Mine) Log Students' Net Usage…Govt. and RIAA Take Notice

  1. Virginia Rezmierski’s NSF study is this one:

    One of the study’s recommendations, if I recall correctly, is for deidentifying log data, e.g., having all logs generate two parts, joined via pseudonyms, so that Log A would contain all the transactional information one might need as a network administrator, while Log B could match actual users (or their IP addresses, which might amount to the same thing) to those transactions. While Log A might be kept for a while, Log B might be routinely purged; you might also encrypt Log B so that information could be recovered, but only with difficulty (e.g., requiring a subpoena, or whatnot).

  2. This Patriot Act calls George Orwell’s “1984” to became true much faster. But if you want you information not to be logged by Big BRO – just try to use VPN, or OpenVPN, this tunnel tecnology will solve your problem of logging every step of students.

  3. sohbet says:

    According to the study, done by The Kelsey Group, online will capture 16% of a $22 billion spend, or $3.52 billion. The study goes on to say, however, that online will average only 2% of the total US advertising spend of $230 billion, or $4.6 billion (larger advertisers are only adding in another billion? Huh?!). Everyone counts differently on this metric, eMarketer says online ad spending will grow from $6 billion last year to $6.9 billion in 2003.

  4. SecondLife says:

    Government is everywhere!!!

  5. Et oui le système est partout!!!