Yale Officials Can Read Student Emails Without Notice or Consent

by Nathan Harden - Fix Editor on December 13, 2013

Do you know who is hacking into your email account? Maybe a better question would be–Who isn’t these days?

Obama and the NSA are doing it. Harvard got caught doing it. And today I can report that Yale University is doing it too.

Yale officials have claimed the right to search student email accounts without notice or consent, according to a report in the Yale Daily News. According to a survey conducted by the Daily News, only 3 out of 73 students were aware that the university had the claimed the power to access their private university email accounts.

According to the Yale administration, reading student email accounts may be done for such vague reasons as complying with  “federal, state, or local law or administrative rules,” or whenever “there are reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of law or a significant breach of University policy may have taken place.”

The Daily News reports that the right to probe student email accounts is “outlined in a publicly available but little-publicized document,” entitled “University’s Information Technology Acceptable Use Policy.”

Judging from the broad and vaguely-defined causes for search outlined in the statement, it might as well be called the “We Can Read any Email You Send or Receive any Time We Want Policy.”

The policy not only allows for search anytime officials suspect you have breached university policy, but it promises full access for government officials–not just the feds, but for state or even local government officials.

Who would have imagined that a local police department could have access to the private emails of students under their jurisdiction without notice or consent? Could that actually happen? Has it happened? It’s hard to say for sure, but the snooping powers outlined in the university policy are so broad that it’s impossible to rule out.

In the year 2013, America has awakened to the reality of the surveillance state we live in. Every phone call, every email–private conversations we might have assumed could not be accessed without a warrant in the past. We now know that at any time the government could be, and probably is, listening and recording every word.

And gradually we have come to realize that the culture of surveillance doesn’t end there. In fact employers increasingly claim the right to read employee emails. And even our nation’s elite colleges and universities, premised as they are on the lofty principles of free speech and academic freedom, no longer respect the privacy of their own students.

Without a reasonable expectation of privacy, free speech is a sham. You can say whatever you want–sure. So long as you don’t mind someone listening in or reading over your digital shoulder.

In claiming the power to read student emails, Yale has shown that it values its own power and interests above the interests and freedoms of its students.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

(Image: amysphere.flickr)

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