Thursday, March 31, 2011

Time (for those at state universities?) to switch e-mail accounts

While I've successfully resisted urges to return to blogging, I wanted to point to something.

For those who might have missed this, I encourage you to go read William Cronon's newish blog Scholar as Citizen right away.  William Cronon is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin - Madison who has had the Wisconsin Republican party issue a Freedom of Information Act request for his e-mail (specifically, those using a fairly wide array of common terms and some names), apparently in response to an editorial he wrote that they did not like.  He set up the blog to discuss what he is going through.  

He makes the case that this is an attack on academic freedom.  I'm very inclined to agree (but of course you judge for yourself).  And following "First they came..." principles I want people to know about it, so you can if you want find ways of expressing your opinions on the subject, to the people of Wisconsin or to the administration at your own university. 

Or, I'd recommend getting a private e-mail account and using that for most of your e-mail. 

On a (somewhat) lighter note, you might want to check Crooked Timber's post on "With Notably Rare Exceptions", which as they describe is an amusing phrase that comes from a rather unfortunate recent choice of words by Alan Greenspan.  While several of the comments may make you laugh, for readers of this blog, the phrase to remember is (comment 40):

With notably rare exceptions, noise is Gaussian distributed.


Anonymous said...

I've been routing almost all of my email to gmail for a while, now, for a different reason: because it has much better spam filters than my university's mail servers. But when emails originate on my campus I've been keeping them on the campus servers in order to avoid exposing student records to third parties. After these events I'm starting to wonder whether even having that much of my email on the campus servers is a good idea.

Anonymous said...

do you know if anybody from theory got hired in your department ?

Steve said...

When I first heard of this I wasn't concerned, at least not about any privacy issues - the attitude of certain politicians that they own you because you work for a public university is another issue entirely, but fretting about email seems the least of those concerns.

But for privacy reasons I've always been pretty good about keeping personal emails in a personal account and work emails in my work account (at least since gmail made it convenient to have a separate personal account). However, Dan Wallach wrote up something for the "Freedom to Tinker" blog which brought up several issued I hadn't thought about - it's worth reading for those that are concerned about this kind of thing: post here

David Pennock said...

Is it obvious that a freedom of information request could not go after a gmail account?