The Electronic Data Advisory Committee was created by the University Committee to clarify the privacy and confidentiality status of electronic data and to draft procedures for the university to follow in providing access to information in this form.
The faculty and staff of the university should be under no delusions as to the essential confidentiality of their electronic files. Even when one takes elaborate precautions (e.g., file encryption) the nature of modern communication networks is such that true confidentiality is impossible to guarantee. In addition, the Wisconsin open records law may require public disclosure of electronic data. All users of these services should be apprised of these facts.
The Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (18 U.S.C. sec. 2511) and parallel language adopted by the Wisconsin Legislature (sec. 968.31(2), Wis. Stats.) allows the university to examine electronic information when necessary to protect the rights and property of the university. The proposed procedures provide a mechanism for doing so in a way that respects the rights of individuals involved.
The report that follows deals with the question of appropriate procedures for the university to follow in cases of requests for access to electronic files initiated internally. (Requests for access that originate external to the university will normally arise under circumstances described in Section 6 of these procedures. In such cases, the university will provide notice to the controller and the opportunity to respond, whenever possible.)
In general, all computer and electronic files should be free from access by any but the authorized users of those files. Exceptions to this basic principle shall be kept to a minimum and made only where essential to:
Accordingly, the Ad Hoc Electronic Data Advisory Committee recommends the following actions:
The procedures are based on three fundamental principles:
The Ad Hoc Electronic Data Advisory Committee:
UW–Madison Faculty Document 890a, 7 October 1991(For access to document see policy contact above)