The University of California Office of the President has installed computer hardware capable of monitoring email transactions among computers across the University of California system.
According to a letter by Ethan Ligon, an associate professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley, the hardware is designed to monitor and possibly record all network traffic, including email traffic, coming in and out of Berkeley’s computer networks.
Kate Moser, a spokesperson for the UC, said in an email statement the policy associated with the hardware was implemented across UC campuses after the cyber attack on UCLA Health in July 2015.
Ligon, who is a member of the Academic Senate-Administration Joint Committee on Campus Information Technology sent out a letter to Berkeley faculty members on Friday informing them about the installation.
In the email sent out to members of faculty, Ligon said the UCOP asked members of the committee to keep this monitoring a secret. He added he thinks as a member of a UC Academic Senate committee, continued silence on behalf of the committee will make them an accomplice in violation of policies of shared governance and academic freedom.
Ligon said the architecture of the hardware at each UC campus may be different relative to the hardware installed at Berkeley.
On Jan. 19, Berkeley faculty received a letter from Rachael Nava, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the UC, outlining justifications behind the implementation of the monitoring hardware. The computer hardware was installed in the summer of 2015, and most faculty were not informed of its implementation at the time of installation.
Ligon said the hardware was installed last summer despite objections from campus IT and technology experts. He added UCOP required IT staff to keep this fact secret from members of faculty.
“This is suitable for places like the defense department, not for a school,” added Ligon. “The way it’s being done does not align with our principles.”
Moser said the University is not interested in private emails of faculty and will follow UC legal privacy protections.
Compiled by Jodutt Basrawi, Bruin contributor.