[FoRK] Fear of Repression Spurs Scholars and Activists to Build Alternate Internets

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Sep 22 14:21:27 PDT 2011

On 9/22/11 7:23 AM, Gregory Alan Bolcer wrote:
> On 9/21/2011 8:34 PM, Stephen Williams wrote:
>> Some community colleges, at least, and many companies are going to the
>> commercial cloud for their email and other infrastructure. If I'm using
>> a Gmail account, is that company owned? (No.) Even if it is paid for by
>> the company, is it company owned in the sense that they can raid it?
>> (Maybe, but not as clearly so.)
> I can't see community college professors doing the type of research that would bring the attention of government repression.
> Unfortunately, if the school owns the domain, it owns the email regardless of where it's located. Even hosted there's still an 
> admin, but these type of mail ownership cases have been tested and tested again in the courts. The company owns it. In fact, just 
> last year
> Ontario v Quon was decided by the supreme court in favor of the employer.

That decision is almost a total punt: They specifically deferred to future plateaus of current rapid evolution on important points:
> (1) The Court does not resolve the parties’ disagreement over Quon’s privacy expectation. Prudence counsels caution before the 
> facts in this case are used to establish far-reaching premises that define the existence, and extent, of privacy expectations of 
> employees using employer-provided communication devices. Rapid changes in the dynamics of communication and information 
> transmission are evident not just in the technology itself but in what society accepts as proper behavior. At present, it is 
> uncertain how workplace norms, and the law’s treatment of them, will evolve. Because it is therefore preferable to dispose of this 
> case on narrower grounds, the Court assumes,/arguendo,/that: (1) Quon had a reasonable privacy expectation; (2) petitioners’ 
> review of the transcript constituted aFourth Amendment <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct-cgi/get-const?amendmentiv>search; and (3) 
> the principles applicable to a government employer’s search of an employee’s physical office apply as well in the electronic 
> sphere. Pp. 9–12.

>> Anyway, why wouldn't someone just use their smart phone and maybe a
>> bluetooth keyboard these days? Own the device, own the Internet
>> connection, use a public/commercial/personally owned/leased resource.
>> Not to mention that work email is arguably usable for personal use a
>> certain percentage of the time, just as personal phone calls
>> traditionally were.
> Corporate subsidized smartphones are also fair game. :-)

Highly doubtful that a company would prevail in a non-court ordered search in that case. Owning the account is owning the account. 
If you were given a living allowance stipend, would you lose all privacy rights to your bedroom? Conversely, if there were a good 
enough argument to get a subpoena as part of discovery (but not fishing), you could get into (i.e. get the court to order that you 
provide info) both the account and your bedroom.

> Greg


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