[unisog] Suspicious Files

Steven VanDevender stevev at uoregon.edu
Tue Dec 9 03:51:27 GMT 2008


Bob Henry writes:
 > One of our Housing office computer techs sent me the following
 > question and I'd like to know what members of this list think.  Has
 > anyone bumped into this and what did you do?  I've forwarded the
 > question to legal as well.
 > 
 > A student brought his computer to the Student Housing computer support
 > people for repairs.  The computer wouldn't boot and the student told
 > the Housing technicians they could format the drive if they needed to.
 >  The technician managed to boot the computer from its existing
 > configuration.  On the computer, the technician found many pictures of
 > jet airplanes, interior and exterior pictures of Boise skyscrapers,
 > pictures of the presidents planes, videos of planes crashing, pictures
 > of airports, pictures of the walkways from the airport, a connection
 > to American airlines flights.
 > 
 > What are our responsibilities for handling this information?  Can we
 > present it to law enforcement or would we be violating the 4th
 > amendment?

Why did your technician spend time poring over personal files in that
computer?  That's ethically dubious, to say the least, and certainly
not cogent to his task of repairing the computer.

Given what you describe, what is in any way illegal or even meaningfully
suspicious about having photographs of aircraft, airports, and
buildings, or even of aircraft crashing?  Maybe this person is an
aviation buff or into architecture.  It's hardly evidence that the
person is somehow planning a terrorist act, which I'm guessing is what
you're suspicious about.

I'd be much more concerned about the technician's unethical and
unnecessary invasion of privacy than the material that the technician
discovered.


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