[LINK] FC: Recording industry wants to scan .au university computers (fwd)

Glen Turner glen.turner@aarnet.edu.au
Thu, 20 Feb 2003 14:39:59 +1030

pche@unimelb.edu.au wrote:

> 2. Given that email accounts may be used to conduct research, what is
 >    the status of any request given the requirements of researchers to secure
 >    their private discussions with respondents?

It depends on which Act covers the research.  Off the
top of my head

  - Medicare Act - communications with patients

  - Census and Statistics Act - some data releases

  - Evidence Acts - forensics labs
                  - witnesses (and unis abound in expert witnesses)
                  - communications between client and lawyer

There's also a myriad of other laws.  For example, the uni
might be regarded as a Telcommunications Act Carriage Service
Provider (DCITA has argued this) and this carries with it
some obligations for the CSP to keep communications private.

So in a legal minefield what should UniMelb do?

Well it certainly shouldn't do what the record companies
are asking.  You don't want to hand over a student's e-mail
to a record company and then find that you're in breach of
the Telecommunications Act and about to be whacked with a
massive fine.  You don't want to find you've breached the
Medicare Act and compromised your medical research activities.
You certainly don't want to find yourself handing over
e-mails between the student and their lawyer discussing
how to handle the record company.

You want your actions to be forced upon you by the courts.
Then no liability can fall on you for giving the court
the information.

I find it remarkable that the press coverage assumes that
the requests the record companies initially made of
UniMelb were reasonable, when fufilling that request
would have exposed UniMelb to the possibility of litigation
from the student or worse.

It would also be a brave sysadmin that handed over someone's
e-mail without sighting a court order.  Some of the Acts
make revealing information a criminal offence and some of
the administering departments are gung-ho about enforcement
(Bureau of Stats comes to mind).  Your typical sysadmin is
paid enough to be a senior officer of the university, so
"I wuz just following orders" is going to be a hard row to
hoe.  That is, the sysadmin has the delightful opportunity
to become a Guest of Her Majesty.

  Glen Turner                (08) 8303 3936 or +61 8 8303 3936
  Australian Academic and Research Network   www.aarnet.edu.au