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Northeastern provost chose unwisely in trying to secretly surveil the work habits of grad students in a lab dedicated to digital privacy

Cory Doctorow reports on what happened when a Northeastern University official tried to prove some sort of point about workspace efficiency by having heat sensors secretly installed under the desks of grad students in the school's Privacy Institute, in that fancy new ISEC building on the other side of train tracks from the main campus. It did not end well, although at least he didn't try to take anybody's red Swingline stapler, so the building still stands.

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Comments

Yeah

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Reading that was worth reading the entire thing. We're not tracking people - just measuring heat under desks. Mmmm kay.

That and the RF punchline

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That's the dumbest move by an administrator that I've seen in years. Of all the people to choose to try to surreptitiously monitor, he picks a group that includes the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute?! Kudos to the grad students.

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Will drive a man insane.

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Northeastern is now a source of more drama than Harvard. Never would have expected it.

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Aren't they already being monitored?

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Slap a copy of Microsoft Teams on those computers, and they'll know to the minute whether those grad students are working or not.

Years ago, my employer was purchased by another outfit. The new owners insisted we all start using one of Microsoft Teams' precursors, Lync. They told us it was their default chat and communication app. It didn't take long to recognize that its real purpose was tracking. The app showed whether we were Active, Away, or Busy at all times. It wasn't hard to imagine all of this data, and all of our chats, being stored and used against us later if they deemed it necessary. In the early days, we could turn off the status monitoring, but it didn't take them long to disable that, which further confirmed the app's real intent.

This whole NU mess is just arrogant stupidity. So many methods for monitoring employees are already in place. Spending $50,000 on something so sneaky and yet also so obvious and then lying about it is just laughably inept. I wonder how many multiples of a grad student's stipend this idiot makes.

As an NU grad myself, it just further reinforces my general sense that this whole wasteful institution isn't worthy of my hard-earned donations.

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Key cards and assigned seating mean they know who's in the lab. That doesn't justify further intrusive monitoring.

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