Cornell Information Technologies will require Cornell affiliates to sign on with their NetIDs when using CIT-operated computers beginning in the 2011-2012 academic year.
All CIT-operated-computers will implement the ID sign-ons, according to Barbara Friedman, manager of faculty support and outreach at computer and information technologies. CIT manages 11 instructional and general computer labs and several hundred computers across campus.
Non-CIT-operated public computers — computers owned directly by the Cornell University Library — will not be subject to CIT’s ID requirement, Friedman said. They include computers in the browsing rooms in some of the libraries, including Uris, Olin and Mann libraries.
CIT will begin a trial period for the sign-ons in Stimson Hall’s CIT Lab, beginning sometime this summer, Friedman said. Her office will ask for “feedback from people using the lab — that it works and it’s functional.”
Cornell had planned for several years to implement the NetID sign-ons for CIT computers, according to Friedman. But after a string of incidents where several people outside of the Cornell community abused both library and CIT computers, CIT decided to change their policy.
“The reason that we’re doing this [is] we’ve had many reports and complaints from students and faculty,” Friedman said.
Friedman referenced one CIT Lab altercation in March as the event the propelled the decision to require NetIDs.
“About a month ago we had complaints from several students in Upson Lab that there were several people who did not appear to be Cornell students,” she said. “People were being disruptive, they were yelling to each other. A few were removed by the police.”
When the NetID sign-on is installed, computers will ask users to provide an “ID and password to verify that they are a member of the Cornell community,” she said. Since all faculty members, students and employees are assigned NetIDs, their access to campus computers will remain unimpeded.
“From having this sign-on, it would discourage people not from Cornell from using this space,” Friedman said.
As opposed to CIT-owned computers, library-operated computers cannot require a sign-on because of Cornell’s land-grant status, which requires unimpeded access for any New York State resident.
“Since we are a New York State public library, we have to allow access for all New York State residents,” said Gabriel Plaine, a Mann Library information technology technician.
But Cornell University Library could consider implementing on library computers guest ID access for persons not affiliated with Cornell.
“CIT is working on a way for New York State residents to apply for a temporary guest ID, which would then allow them access to [general library] computers,” Plaine said.
According to Kathy Zoner, chief of Cornell Police, the new rule requiring an ID to access CIT-operated computers may increase security and reduce problems, which occur “fairly frequently,” she said.
“There have been issues of theft, damage and unauthorized use in the labs,” Zoner said,
By requiring IDs, some librarians expressed worry that CIT may collect personal data and possibly infringe on privacy rights in the future.
“There are also other considerations — issues such as academic freedom, privacy issues and other things,” said Michael Cook, a Mann librarian and head of public access computing.
The Cornell University Library system maintains stringent protections of privacy rights, according to Annemarie Morse, a reference specialist at Catherwood Library and chair of the public computer advisory committee. She said that, the library would only divulge personal information in rare circumstances.
“Even if the police came to us and said, ‘Who logged on at this time?,’ the Library wouldn’t give them that information,” Morse said. “The library and CIT have very high policies on information and retaining privacy.”
Friedman concurred, clarifying that CIT University Policy 5.9 stipulates that such information is not collected.
CIT Policy 5.9 states that only CIT’s vice president may disclose computer data in a few select circumstances, including “in response to a court order” and “in the event of a health or safety emergency.”
“The whole point isn’t that we’re trying to look” at personal data, Friedman said, adding that the sign-on is required “because of the need to keep computers available to the Cornell community only.”
While CIT will begin requiring NetID computer access, Cornell University Library has no tentative plan to require sign-ons for use, according to Oliver Habitch, director of library desktop services.
Public libraries are supposed to “provide access to information,” he said. “The libraries have an ethic of open access and anonymous access.”