Italian universities started to sell students' privacy to big corps through email accounts

Paul Boddie paul at
Sat Aug 22 13:48:48 UTC 2015

On Saturday 22. August 2015 15.20.58 Andrea Di Dato wrote:
> I try to give you some motivation that often bring such institutions to
> make the choice to externalize some services, core ones too, as per
> e-mail.
> Apart for reasons connected to historic factors, open contract and
> partnership, side interpretation of reports (cfr Pesaro municipality some
> days ago), there are two main reasons a PA may take such a decision: cuts
> to ordinary founds (FFO) and cuts to staff employee.

This is admittedly true, and even in countries where there hasn't exactly been 
a shortage of money to spend on essential services, it is often the case that 
budgets are frozen or cut. Municipalities are often forced to take on the 
responsibility for additional services and are then blamed by central 
government for letting people down.

> Those two factors, in the short period, bring an IT manager to realize that
> he cannot anymore supervise to time consuming tasks like administration of
> servers needed to operate common site services (web, e-mail, shared
> archives, etc.) because anyone can anymore nowadays assure to him the
> needed financial resources to maintain such services year by year and
> moreover very probably he/she is alone to administer those services
> because all his/her colleagues retired, haven't been replaced (due to the
> stop of the turnover).
> The solution: externalisation!
> The life motif of the PA in Italy today :-(

Or indeed everywhere. And all the time, people are asking, "Why are you paying 
to run these things when there are companies offering services to run those 
things for nothing?" Nobody asks why they cost nothing.

> So, even though there are laws that prevent you to do it, there are others
> who, in a sense, force you to do so.

Indeed. There is another factor I can think of, unrelated to general financial 
and societal pressures: the idea that universities are institutions whose role 
it is to make money and to create businesses that make money. This does 
intersect with the external pressures because it sounds appealing that by 
making money, the institution "pays its own way", meaning that the government 
or public budgets can reduce their financial support.

What this leads to is the idea that industry-centred research is the top 
priority (along with increased demands for people to publish academic papers 
and to file patents on discoveries), with the teaching of students becoming a 
source of costs that must be reduced or eliminated. Perversely, one would 
think that administrative costs would be subject to severe reductions, but 
apparently, the administrators need the latest and greatest toys. 
Consequently, a large proportion of people in such institutions are being 
squeezed by this corruption of those institutions' purposes.

(I don't have a problem with rewarding and encouraging research, but doing so 
in a way that would monopolise it is just wrong. And if those pursuing such an 
agenda had any honesty, they would be running a private company funding its 
own research through its own revenues, except that then those people wouldn't 
be able to finance their schemes from the public purse.)

So, I suppose the last three paragraphs merely add the consequences of greed 
to the motivations for doing this as well.


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