UC Davis halted a two-month long trial of Google’s Gmail earlier this month for faculty and staff due to fears regarding Google’s privacy policies. However, Gmail simply has no peers and is an asset to the UC Davis faculty, staff and student body alike.
The cited cause for concern is that Google uses private information to generate content-related advertisements. As a result, some faculty and staff are worried that their privacy could be compromised.
In addition, Gmail has been subject to international scrutiny after releasing Buzz, its social networking feature. The controversy stems from the fact that it automatically sets up a list of followers based on a private contact list. According to privacy commissioners from 10 different countries, Buzz proves that Google taps into personal information without asking. As a result of these concerns, UC Davis is exploring alternative options including creating its own email system.
While it is encouraging that UC Davis is showing concern over the privacy of its faculty and staff, tangible evidence that Google has breached their confidentiality does not exist. In fact, the Google-based Davis Mail system prohibits the inclusion of both advertisements and Buzz so there is little cause for concern.
It is imperative that both students and faculty possess the best possible e-mail system in order to communicate efficiently. Though Davis Mail will remain on campus for now, a university-created e-mail system used by faculty and staff would likely be far inferior to Gmail. The new system could potentially be less secure than the existing Gmail system.
Rather than overreacting based on fear, UC Davis should attempt to work with Google to address privacy concerns. Any institution of UC Davis’ standards deserves only the highest quality tools.