Head-to-Head: Should we all have access to the email directory?

Yes, access to the directory is helpful to get in contact with people

By Nikayla Goddard, October 15 2018 —

On Sept. 7, 246 University of Calgary staff, students, faculty and alumni with ‘Nicole’ in their name or email address received a mass email from Carlos, a student looking to connect with a woman named Nicole whom he met the previous night.

Carlos was able to email all of the Nicoles via the Office 365 webmail directory, which allows anyone to search for any U of C name and email. Some have expressed concern over the ability to obtain the email of anyone at the university from a simple search, but overall I believe being able to do so is both harmless and helpful for any student or professor.

When I discovered the directory in my second year, I felt relieved that I could easily get in touch with classmates for obtaining notes and working on group projects when necessary. The address book also displays titles, departments and contact information, if provided, for professors, teaching assistants and other instructors outside the class. While contact info for professors and TAs are often given in course outlines, knowing that it is available elsewhere offers peace of mind. It’s also extremely handy to search up professors you don’t have classes with and otherwise might not know how to contact. The “Advanced Find” feature also allows for searching by department and offices — a handy tool.

Additionally, as an executive of a campus club, I have used the directory countless times to clarify messily or incorrectly written email addresses from new club member sign-ups. While this might seem insignificant, it has saved our club a lot of hassle when trying to contact members. Any similar system involving U of C student sign-ups can benefit from this trick.

For those who are concerned about other U of C students being able to find your email, Outlook allows users to block senders. Given that safeguard, being able to look up emails in the directory overall is a positive benefit for students.

 


 

No, access to the directory is a privacy concern

By Derek Baker, October 15 2018 —

At the beginning of the school year, a mass email was sent out to every single ‘Nicole’ on campus from a man looking for a missed connection. Though the story was quite humorous — and at the end of the day, harmless — it brought to my attention something that I didn’t even know existed on our school email accounts.

Using the school’s Office 365 webmail service, it’s possible to search for the email addresses of University of Calgary students, faculty and alumni. Though this might make it easier to get a hold of an elusive group member as a group project deadline approaches, having the ability to look up almost anyone at the U of C shouldn’t be possible.

Having access to the contact information of everyone on campus is concerning for a few reasons. Firstly, it raises questions about whether someone should be able to contact you without prior consent. Not only is this concerning from a privacy standpoint, but having the ability to contact someone also opens the door for harassment. Though the block feature does exist, it only takes one threatening or harassing email to cause distress.

Secondly, having access to thousands of email addresses also invites our information to be sold or distributed, be it to advertisers or otherwise. Though spam is annoying, it’s nothing a simple ‘delete’ can’t solve. The more pressing issue is if this information gets into more nefarious hands.

A series of phishing emails already occurred at the U of C earlier this year and a ransomware attack in 2016 compelled the U of C to pay $20,000 to ‘unlock’ files that had been made inaccessible. Cybersecurity is a pressing concern and having access to a multitude of school email accounts only invites more trouble.

Admittedly, an open directory isn’t something to lose sleep over. However, in a digital age where information privacy and cybersecurity are growing concerns, I find it peculiar that anyone on campus could look me up by my first name, regardless of whether they know me or not, and have access to my email address.

If you need to get ahold of someone for a project in your class, having access to their email on D2L is reasonable enough. However, having the ability to email almost anyone from the U of C isn’t a best practice.

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