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Volume 134, Issue 6


Tech Committee To Develop Online Privacy Statement
Information Technology Policy Committee meets monthly to discuss college responsibility

Swapping social security numbers for unique student identification numbers was only the first phase of City College's privacy agenda.

Charged with developing a privacy statement addressing Internet and computer usage, the Information Technology Policy Committee (ITPC) meets monthly to discuss issues such as appropriate use of technology and to what extent City College should be responsible for that use.

"I'd just like to make sure that within the limits of the law, that we certainly provide information, confidentiality, and security," said Bill Beaver, Chairman of the ITPC.

Beaver admitted that online privacy is a complex issue that cannot be resolved overnight.

According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer information and advocacy program, cyberspace privacy varies depending upon the activity.

For example, public activities such as newsgroups and list serves afford no privacy. Even activities usually seen as private, such as email, are accessible under certain circumstances to law enforcement officials and email service providers.

In addition to developing policies about the protection of faculty, staff, and students against online privacy violations, the ITPC must also decide what information the school will collect about visitors to its website.

According to a draft of the City College website privacy statement, the site does not use cookies that personally identify a user. The statement indicates that visitors to the City College website will be tracked and their IP/Internet address logged but will otherwise remain anonymous to the school.

With so many factors to consider, Chancellor Philip Day has placed greater priority on crafting a well-examined statement than on meeting a hard deadline.

"I'll feel real comfortable when we have a fairly strong consensus around a set of policies and guidelines. The most important thing is to get it right," said Day.

Day acknowledged that members of AFT 2121, the union for City College faculty, should also be included in the development of the privacy statement.

"Because workplace conditions is a negotiated item in our union contracts, we should extend an invitation to AFT 2121. They need to be at the table. It's better to have everyone there working on the same page," said Day.