The Georgetown Hoya reported today that the university is considering a Google alternative to their internal mail system due to the Georgetown mail servers being unreliable.
The new system would run off the Google Apps for Education platform, enabling students to use … essentially, Gmail. Emails would be routed through Google’s server, preventing issues such as bounced messages or internal downtime or outages.
Will this have any ramifications to academic freedoms that students in well-known universities are entitled to? Will this be a breach of security or violation of privacy? We all know that Google does a good job based on data, but will Google be doing more than just “hosting” email?
Granted, from a system administration standpoint, Google Apps for Education does sound tempting. But it is an entirely different issue if the data that resides on a student account is “used” in any way.
Having just graduated from college myself (I still maintain my college email account having previously worked at my college computing), I know that I need not be concerned about the security of my college email account. The only people who would be able to access my account are those who have root access to the server upon which my mail resides. I know that my university isn’t data mining my mail, looking for ways to optimize for the “best user experience,” which is something that Google takes pride on offering to the public.
But my university is not a corporate entity with a monetary goal.
More importantly, Google specifically says the following:
Sharing information and ideas is vital to learning. So imagine how valuable it would be if your entire campus community shared a set of powerful, easy-to-use and integrated communication and collaboration services.
Are they trying to allude to what they intend to do with the system?
Furthermore, Google does not make any note of a ‘watered down’ version of Gmail (read: one with no ads) — and my guess is that Google doesn’t even offer it. Does a student who wants to work on his 30 page paper really need the advertisement interference?
I am looking forward to seeing how this system will work out and how many universities will sign on. (My guess is that the Ivies would not touch this system with a 30 foot pole.)