Though many young people are open with their personal information on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, some University students are concerned about privacy controls on the University’s new online directory.
Two students recently contacted Kate Barald, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs and a professor in the Medical School and College of Engineering, about information security on the University directory, MCommunity. At a meeting before the University’s leading faculty governance body yesterday, Barald discussed the students’ concerns that people unaffiliated with the University can view their profiles —specifically the public groups they belong to — on the website.
The University overhauled the online directory over the summer and switched to a Google search engine for all umich.edu websites, which changed how people search names on MCommunity. Jack Bernard, associate general counsel of SACUA, said the switch made some University members’ personal information more accessible to the general public when the website was first introduced. But he said the glitches have since been fixed.
The same amount of information is available to the public on MCommunity as in the old online directory, but the difference is that the new “group” tab makes information slightly easier to find, Bernard said.
“We didn’t change anything,” Bernard said. “We just got a better search engine.”
One of the students who came to Barald is an Iranian student who belongs to LGBTQ groups on campus, Barald said at the meeting. He does not want the group names to be visible to people in his home country since his membership could be punishable by death in Iran, Barald explained.
Barald said she feels members of the University community should have a say in what appears on their profiles.
“If the groups were to be listed, the person whose groups were listed should have some control over what appears,” Barald said.
In an interview after the meeting, Bernard said there is no way for group members to change whether the groups they belong to are public or private because MCommunity uses the same software as the old directory. That control setting is reserved for the group owners.
“I would encourage students to see what groups they’re members of, see if they still want to be members of those groups, see if those groups are public or private,” Bernard said. “If the owner is unwilling to change the status of the group, you should be asking yourself whether or not you still want to be a member. … If not, just ask to be removed.”
During the SACUA meeting yesterday, faculty members expressed their approval of the new University copyright policy.
Bernard, who wrote the new policy, said it is much shorter and clearer than it was previously. He added that the policy outlines the rights students have to the papers they write.
“It clearly states that students hold the rights to the works that they author when they author them as individuals,” Bernard said. “When they author them as employees at the University, then the University is going to hold the rights.”
Bernard said rights for University faculty and students have expanded with the new policy.
“I think it’s a good change,” he said. “We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive reception to it. Students in particular should be really happy with it because it really bluntly puts faculty and departments on notice that students have rights and we should be mindful of those rights.”