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College

online privacy

[Originally published related to INF312/STS311]
Do you intend to change any of your current behaviors regarding your personal information as the result of what you have learned? Why or why not?
For the most part, no. I already use a spam-friendly e-mail address for public postings and do what I can to restrict information being offered by my computer. I have recently refrained where I could from posting on massive public websites, unless I really had something worth saying to say. (That’s good manners as well as good privacy!) I generally don’t mind if the information I release online is spread to wherever and I’ve been mindful of the information I wish to keep quiet. I will, however, start checking browser settings on some of the various computers I use often to ensure they meet my standards.
What kind of policy does UT have toward student directory information? Do you think this is a good policy? Why or why not?
The information is public and the University allows it to be access by a wide-range of applications (web, LDAP, finger, etc) in addition to standard (read: old) paper directory requests. For the most part, I think this is a good policy; however, I would suggest adding a UT-EID login before web access. At an university with so many people, we encounter many once and could never see them again in person. With this ability, if I run into someone in class and exchange names, I am able to find that person’s e-mail address and contact them. In an academic community, I think that ability is important to enhance the community aspect of it. I mention the UT-EID login since right now anyone anywhere can access the information with ease. With LDAP and other methods, it’s not quite so effortless so EID authentication isn’t that important to me. With WWW access, however, having the UT-EID would deter non-UT subjects from abusing the system. I do not think the system should be role-specific though, that is I would not want to limit the directory to people with UT-EIDs who are also classified as students or staff, etc. A prospective student or job applicant or retired staff or graduated student have a vested interest in accessing some of that information.
What do you think are the two most important things you can do to protect your online privacy? Why do you think these are the most important?
First, be very careful what information you release where. Just because a site asks for your phone number, that doesn’t mean you should give it to them. Treat your e-mail address like a private telephone number. Have a throw-away account to give to questionable sites.
Second, avoid applications that have security holes or flaws and related links. For example, using Internet Explorer pre-SP2 and clicking on a flashy banner ad, in many cases, would lead to some sort of spyware being installed on your computer. Not only would that leave you open to your online idenity, they could have access to many important and private information on your home computer. (Note: I have not explored IE with SP2 so I don’t want to knock the app unless I have personal experience to do so!)
If you’re careful about releasing information yourself and not doing insecure actions using insecure programs, most security and privacy issues take care of itself.

By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

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