How universities spy on student (and staff) email

How universities spy on student (and staff) email

Summary: Exploring how email administrators can spy on the inboxes of their organisation's employees or university's staff and students.

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  • Logging back in as the Administrator, I go to the Options area as I normally would to access email settings. But as the administrator I also have other management settings such as those of the entire email organisation - this hypothetical university. 

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    Colour key for viewers: Red border is the administrator's email view. Green border is the student user's email view. Blue border is the administrator's console.
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    For more background on this screenshot gallery, head over to the iGeneration blog which explains all.

  • The Administrator can control users, groups and certain other features which manage the mailboxes of its users. In this scenario, the administrator goes to Reporting then Mailbox Searches, a feature which is built into Exchange Online and other versions of Exchange Server. This allows the administrator to search for certain text in any mailboxes across the organisation, or to wildcard search across any number of users' folders.

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    Colour key for viewers: Red border is the administrator's email view. Green border is the student user's email view. Blue border is the administrator's console.
    ---

    For more background on this screenshot gallery, head over to the iGeneration blog which explains all.

  • The New Mailbox Search dialog has a series of options. The administrator can legitimately recover mailboxes for users' who have lost their data, or they can search all the mailboxes across the organisation. This could have an important function if there is an epidemic of swearing at a K12 institution, for example, or bullying and suchlike. In a university setting where academic freedom is a right as well as a privilege, perhaps not.

    The Search name is the name of the folder in a separate 'discovery' account where the mailbox search is stored, and in Exchange, the separate account where the results are stored is in the standard Discovery Search Mailbox

    ---
    Colour key for viewers: Red border is the administrator's email view. Green border is the student user's email view. Blue border is the administrator's console.
    ---

    For more background on this screenshot gallery, head over to the iGeneration blog which explains all.

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10 comments
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  • Why use the word Spy?

    You know that most times this is done for legitimate reasons. I manage a Live@Edu system for students and Exchange in house for staff and I don't know about other Admins but I do not have the time to just read other people's email for the sake of reading it so calling it Spying makes it sound like something illegal or sneaky is going on and I am sure sometimes there is, but I would suspect (or at least hope) that is rare.

    Either that or I have too high of a moral standard to just be sneaky like that.
    bobiroc
    • RE: How universities spy on student (and staff) email

      @bobiroc For one thing I'm sure of - I'm glad to have readers like you with a strong moral standard :)
      zwhittaker
      • Don't mind bobrockhead

        Not only does he read other people's mail but he's also is a peeping tom. Just make sure you keep him away from open windoze.

        lol.... :D
        search & destroy
  • RE: How universities spy on student (and staff) email

    Goes back to the ole "My equipment, my Rules" paradigm. UNLESS it is something the user was never advised could happen. And that was never mentioned in the article.
    twayner
  • RE: How universities spy on student (and staff) email

    Hell, the government scans all the stuff that travels outside the local domain anyway.
    Beyond that, admins can track just about everywhere a user goes and everything a user downloads en masse. Been that way for a decade at least. Nothing is secret when it comes to web traffic.
    bobwinners
  • RE: How universities spy on student (and staff) email

    Your headline implies that university mail admins regularly spy on user accounts. Anyone with a lick of sense knows that the mail admins already have the ability to look into their account (so you're relying on the ethics of the admin), and anyone who's concerned about mail privacy already knows there's NO absolute privacy guarantee when you're using someone else's mail server.
    rpolunsky@...
    • RE: How universities spy on student (and staff) email

      @rpolunsky@... If they can, they do.
      zwhittaker
  • RE: How universities spy on student (and staff) email

    Not every university spies on students... It isn't news that universities and companies have the ability to do so either.
    snoop0x7b
  • Another Option

    Surveilstar
    peteself
  • A good e-mail system provides an audit the admin capability.

    One that the admins can't change. More overhead that way, but the manager/supervisor has the ability to check on them and keep them honest.
    Dr_Zinj