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Friday, September 24, 2021

Google Drive auditing feature removed for UC Davis emails

Two weeks ago, some students began receiving a new notification when trying to access online documents on Google Drive through their UC Davis email accounts due to a new Google feature.

The new feature, introduced by Google, allowed administrators to see when a document was viewed or edited. A notification was displayed to students trying to access a document through their UC Davis email accounts. It has since been turned off for UC Davis account holders.

“You are about to access a document administered by the UC Davis domain. Your activity on that document will be logged and viewable to the UC Davis administrator,” the notification stated.

Gabriel Youtsey, Interim Assistant CIO of the Office of the Vice Provost in the Information and Educational Technology (IET) department, said that the department investigated the feature.

“There was no intention of recording anyone’s activity on Google Docs,” Youtsey said.

The feature only allowed administrators to see when someone viewed or edited a document. The actual content of the documents or files was not available to administrators.

The term “administrators” on the UC Davis campus refers to fewer than five technical system administrators in IET who manage the email service for the campus. They are the only people who had access to the logs during the time the auditing feature was active for Davis accounts.

While some students were concerned about the notifications, others were not as worried when they found out that administrators could not actually see the documents.

“I don’t see a problem with it. It really wouldn’t make a difference to me if they could see when a document was viewed or accessed,” said undeclared first-year Hayley Heino.
Juiting Ling, a third-year chemical engineering major, agreed.

“I think it’s OK. I don’t really understand why anyone would need to know that information, but I don’t see any harm in it either,” Ling said.

IET staff is responsible for experimenting with and introducing different features like this one for UC Davis, according to Youtsey.

“IET staff regularly check for new features in products like Google Docs,” Youtsey said. “We have now disabled this feature, and we will be considering our process for reviewing, introducing and announcing new features in these applications.”

Students who are concerned about their online privacy or want more information about how to stay protected online can refer to IET’s Protecting Privacy Campaign at security.ucdavis.edu.

LAUREN MASCARENHAS can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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