The Samovar

Google worms its way into universities
June 12, 2007, 4:05 am
Filed under: Business, Civil Liberties, Internet, Politics, Surveillance Society

The BBC reports that Trinity College Dublin has switched its internal email system over to Google, and other universities are thinking of doing the same thing. Addresses and domain names will look the same but Google is running it behind the scenes. In the light of Google’s privacy policy recently being ranked among the worst, this raises some serious questions:

  • Will students be able to opt out of this service?
  • Will students data held by the university be given to Google as part of the deal?
  • If so, how much of it?
  • Will students get targeted advertising while at university?
  • What is the value to Google in advertising revenue of this captive audience?
  • What is the cost for the university of running its own email system?
  • What are the implications of having the university part funded by advertising?
  • Will staff email also run on Google’s systems?
  • How would we feel about schools and other public sector organisations making arrangements like this with Google?

For background on my concerns about companies holding enormous amounts of data on everyone, see my previous entry on social sorting and the surveillance society.

See also this article in Trinity’s student newspaper.



I must admit, I always use gmail accounts. They’re convenient…plus doubtless anyone who wanted to could keep an eye on me no matter what I used. I’m wondering, though…presumably I could hook GPG up to gmail?

Comment by Edward the Bonobo

I’ve not used gmail so I don’t know if you can do it with webmail access, but I’ve been told that google provides POP3 and IMAP access as well, so you could certainly put GPG on Mozilla Thunderbird say and use it with Google. That stops them from reading your mail and targeting you with keyword adverts assuming you have the discipline to use it for all your emails and everyone who sends you an email also has. That wouldn’t happen, but even if it did they would still know everyone you email and who emails you.

But it’s not really what I’m so worried about. My concern is about increasingly linked and comprehensive corporate databases on us. See my post on the surveillance society for why (linked under highlights on the side panel). Other companies keep logs (they’re required to by law), but they don’t datamine those logs and use them to profile you in their wider business.

Comment by Dan | thesamovar

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