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Why blame govts, Harvard too indulges in e-snooping


The paranoid behaviour of the governments is such that India made an average of 13 requests a day to Google for access to personal web details of web users during 2012.

In terms of the number of requests for web user details during 2012, India is next to only the US, which made 45 requests a day on an average - the highest for any country.

But these countries, they may reasons like security and terror related issues, but why an institution like Harvard University involve itself in e-snooping?

The Ivy League Harvard University was snooping around email accounts of 16 resident deans. It resorted such secret search to find out who leaked information about students cheating incident last year.

Harvard University

Harvard University officially confirmed on Monday that it had secretly gained access to the ­e-mail accounts of 16 resident deans and apologized for the discomfort. But it said that doing so was necessary to safeguard the privacy of students caught up in last year's cheating scandal.

The administrators had searched the e-mails of the deans, trying to determine who had leaked an internal memo about how the deans should advise students who stood accused of cheating. However, these deans were not told that their accounts had been searched until the past few days, after The Boston Globe, which first reported the searches, began to inquire about them.

The oldest institution of higher learning in the US issued a partial apology as it came under fire for the way it handled a secret search of the e-mail accounts of the resident deans.

"A very narrow, careful, and precise subject-line search was conducted by the University's IT department," due "to concerns that other information -- especially student information we have a duty to protect as private-was at risk," it said in a statement.

The statement from Deans Michael D. Smith and Evelynn M. Hammonds stressed that the search was limited to administrative accounts, and that it did not involve a review of e-mail content.

The statement says: "To be clear: no one's emails were opened and the contents of no one's emails were searched by human or machine."

Meanwhile, Google's latest Transparency Report says that the US made a total of 16,407 requests to access personal web details in 2012, followed by India's 4,750, France's 3,239, Germany's 3,083, UK's 2,883 and Brazil's 2,777 in top-five.

The number of requests from all these countries rose in 2012, while the worldwide total also rose by 20 percent in 2012 to 42,327, as per .

The number of such requests from India also rose by about 20 percent in 2012 from 3,946 in the previous year. On its part, the US-based global Internet giant Google provided part or full information to the enforcement agencies from India for about two-third of the total requests received by it during 2012. The compliance rate was much higher at 88 percent for requests received from the US.

Google publishes data for requests about user details, as also for removal of content on its various platforms, including Search, Images and YouTube, on a six-month basis.

Google received 2,319 user data requests from India during the first half of 2012, while the numbers rose to 2,431 in the second half of the year. The number of user accounts associated with such requests rose from 3,467 in the first half to 4,106 in the last six months of 2012.

The company said it regularly receives requests from governments and courts around the world to hand over user data and the number of such requests have increased with growing usage of its services every year.

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