There is no Secrecy on the Internet

September 21, 2009 at 19:11 | Posted in google, Secrecy | Leave a comment

And just between you and me – it’s a good thing, too. I think this is a great reminder to all those cowards who hide behind ‘anonymous’ e-mail accounts to spread libel, hatred, and – lies.

Google ordered to ID authors of emails to York University

Adrian Humphreys,  National Post

TORONTO — York University has won court orders requiring Google Inc. and Canada’s two largest telecommunications companies to reveal the identities of the anonymous authors of contentious emails that accused the school’s president of academic fraud.

The university took the extraordinary measures after an email was circulated alleging that president Mamdouh Shoukri "perpetrated an outrageous fraud" when publicly touting the appointment of a new dean.

In January, the school announced its hiring of Martin Singer as its inaugural dean of the new Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, said to be the largest faculty in the country. The announcement called Prof. Singer a "renowned scholar of Chinese history" and quoted the president as saying: "York University is fortunate to have attracted such a strong scholar and administrator."

A week later, an email in the name of a group called York Faculty Concerned About the Future of York University was sent using a Google Gmail account to members of the York community challenging the statements regarding Prof. Singer’s scholarly output. "Lying about scholarly credentials is the gravest offence," the email said before calling for the president’s resignation and a new search for a dean.

York obtained a court order in May compelling Google to turn over Internet Protocol addresses associated with the Gmail account. Google identified Bell Canada and Rogers Communications as the relevant Internet Service Providers.

Last month, York sought similar orders compelling Bell and Rogers to disclose the contact information of the customers who accessed the account, a motion that went unopposed by the telecom giants. This week, Justice George R. Strathy of Ontario Superior Court released his reasons for granting the orders, saying it was a reasonable balance between protecting freedom of speech and protection from libel.

David Noble, an outspoken professor at York, was listed in the email as a contact person. In an interview yesterday, he denounced York’s legal moves as "a fishing expedition" that was unnecessary since the allegations raised were shown to be correct by statements from both the president and the new dean. "I think they are trying to create a chill among faculty," he said.

"They are spending enormous sums, for what? I think they are just desperate to find out who is involved." He said his colleagues sought anonymity because they are "afraid of reprisals."

Will McDowell, a lawyer for the university, defended the action. "Academics enjoy quite extensive latitude in what they say and what they write and what they research at Canadian universities but I would say this about any of us: The right of free speech is not unlimited," he said.

"What was said is quite damaging to the institution."

The school now has the identities of five or six people who allegedly had access to the Gmail account. Justice Strathy said the information is only to be used for the purpose of commencing litigation.

Neither Prof. Singer nor Prof. Dirlik could be reached for comment.

National Post

ahumphreys@nationalpost.com

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