Canadian Professors Lose Fight Against Google E-Mail

June 9, 2009

An arbitrator has rejected the grievance of the faculty union at Lakehead University, in Ontario, that the institution violated professors' rights when it replaced a campus e-mail system with Google's e-mail system. The professors had argued that because Google is based in the United States, e-mail communications could come under the rules of the Patriot Act and faculty members could have their privacy rights violated. As a result, they argued, the shift in e-mail service was a significant enough change that it should not have been made under the collective bargaining agreements in place. The arbitrator did not contest that the shift could pose a danger to faculty members, but ruled in favor of the university because of the lack of a contract provision requiring the university to assure the "absolute privacy" of professors. In response, the Canadian Association of University Teachers plans to advise faculty union chapters on how to assure better privacy protections in their contracts.

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