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

Paul Boddie paul at
Sun Aug 23 11:59:32 UTC 2015

On Sunday 23. August 2015 12.57.14 Florian Weimer wrote:
> * Valentino Santori:
> > I would like to report a very bad situation for student's privacy in
> > the public education system, here in Italy. Many universities, and as
> > far as I know even high schools, are migrating from self-hosted mail
> > servers to propietary, big-corp's owned email accounts. This without
> > any chance to refuse the creation of this account, because this is
> > created during the subscription to the faculty, and without any
> > privacy agreement.
> There is a privacy agreement, the question is whether you like it.

It's more than whether there is a privacy agreement, though. As others have 
noted, it's also about whose terms of service you have to agree to, and even 
whether someone effectively signs you up for those terms without your 
knowledge. Should a student have to enter into contracts with random (and 
typically foreign) companies?

> From a privacy perspective, the move from self-hosted mail service to
> an external managed service might not be a regression.  Few
> universities can afford the required resources to run secure mail
> servers and detect compromised user accounts.  It's a complex
> trade-off.

Although this is true - while following up to earlier messages I noticed that 
my most recent academic employer had experienced yet another unintentional 
disclosure of personal information - many larger organisations do apparently 
have substantial expertise in the appropriate areas.

It appears that smaller organisations often take advantage of providers of 
services across their sector. This does also raise concerns about how data is 
handled and protected, and whether security incidents are reported or 

> I also don't think this has to do much with free software, so it's
> probably off-topic for this list.

On the contrary, if we were all comfortable with people signing us up for 
agreements without our knowledge, we'd probably all be happy to use 
proprietary software with the zoo of exotic contractual animals it tends to 

And also, the use of Free Software is directly impacted by this cloud-pushing 
agenda, meaning that the viability of Free Software is affected since, just as 
it is when people decide to spend large sums on proprietary software, 
beneficial investment is withheld from improving Free Software that competes 
with those cloud products. Also, some cloud-related products do not support 
Free Software operating systems, affecting Free Software once again.


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