Staying in line online

Queen’s network regulated on complaint basis, Internet Services says

Students could find themselves tangled in a web of trouble for breaching copyright and licensing laws under the Queen’s University Computer User Code of Ethics.

“Basically it regulates access to administrative and research systems,” Information Systems security manager George Farah said. “It doesn’t really describe regulating personal behaviour.”

For example, students in residence who download movies and music illegally are breaching the code, he said, adding that it’s a common occurrence.

An external regulating body, such as the Recording Industry Association of America, may track people who download material illegally and file a complaint with the University.

“They monitor those people who download it illegally and what they download, what time and what movie and where it came from in terms of network,” he said. “They provide it in a complaint to us and we act accordingly.”

According to the code, those found in breach of it are first given a warning to stop their behaviour.

If the user doesn’t comply, the director of information technology has the discretion to suspend the user’s access to computing and network facilities, Farah said.

The code of ethics applies to all students who connect to the Queen’s network using their Net IDs.

People on campus can also report a breach of the code by emailing abuse@queensu.ca, Farah said, adding that the University acts primarily on a complaints basis.

“We don’t monitor or control whether someone is using Hotmail or Gmail or what information they send,” he said. “That’s left to the freedom of the individuals.” Queen’s Internet Services doesn’t have access to what type of information students look for through a search engine, he added.

“If anyone visits a porn site, we don’t monitor that,” he said. “There’s free reign there. … We don’t want to restrict students.” Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker said he thinks students should always exhibit integrity and try to avoid being degrading on the Internet. “I think the dilemma here is that people think that electronic media is different than in-person interactions,” he said. “This leads to being perhaps more cavalier about things you might say.” ­­

People should ask themselves if everything they say would be appropriate on a billboard, Laker said.

“A percentage of our students think that media is private and, therefore, get offended or worse when someone remarks on it,” he said. “They act offended, but that doesn’t make sense. As the owner of your Facebook, you certainly have access to your privacy settings.” Laker said his main concern is for student safety, adding that he doesn’t directly dismiss all forms of media as inherently bad.

“I use Skype and Second Life and I’m very familiar will all sorts of media,” he said. “It’s when people use them to criticize others—that’s when I worry.” Laker said his office doesn’t monitor students’ online activity.

“We’re not trolling the Internet,” he said, adding that his office doesn’t have a cohesive policy for dealing with Internet-related issues because they often overlap with other issues, such as human rights or academic integrity, that have their own policies.

“If students have any concern or trouble, we help them brainstorm how to find a resolution maybe by referring them to a policy or to conflict mediation or personal advice and counseling.”

—With files from Gloria Er-Chua

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