Vol. XXI, No. 2
Posted 21 November 2008
Reader Commentaries and Responses on "Do You Know Where Your
Data Are Tonight?" by Harrison Eiteljorg, II
This comment was made by Susan C. Jones and posted on November 21, 2008.
The American Association of University Professors has been concerned about this issue for some time. The AAUP has made these points in a newsletter sent to members. What follows here is a direct quotation, though it may differ slightly in appearance from the original:
- Professors commonly collaborate on research with colleagues in other countries. In places with restrictive governments, researchers and scholars may be taking risks to work on certain projects. Knowing that such collaboration will no longer be kept confidential may have a chilling effect on collaboration across borders.
- Similarly, faculty working in areas such as human rights may have a much more difficult time making contacts or finding sources, if they cannot guarantee the anonymity of sources of information. This would greatly impede the amount and quality of information obtained about various political and socio-economic situations around the world, of which academics are a vital source.
- There is little or no information about how information that is copied and kept by Homeland Security will be kept secure, leading to concerns about the protection of original research. This extends to projects that may have patents pending or are in an otherwise precarious stage of development.
- It is unlikely that the Customs and Border Protection agents conducting such searches at the border would have the specialized knowledge to determine whether or not certain types of data, particularly in areas of science such as engineering or biochemistry, pose a genuine threat.
- The invasion of privacy may extend well beyond the individual whose possessions are being searched. Many faculty members have outside practices or jobs. An adjunct at a school of law may have confidential client records. An instructor from a psychology department may have patient records. Thus, obligations of confidentiality may be breached through no fault of the professional’s own under these searches.
Press coverage of this issue:
Senate Judiciary Committee
"Laptop Searches and Other Violations of Privacy Faced by Americans Returning from Overseas Travel"
LINK TO PRIMARY ARTICLE, "Do You Know Where Your Data Are Tonight?" by Harrison Eiteljorg, II
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