What is Project NEThicssm?
Project NEThicssm is an initiative of the Office of Information Technology (OIT). The goal of the project is to encourage responsible use of university computing resources. The staff of Project NEThicssm respond to complaints of misuse that involve resources administered by OIT and are available to provide education and resources on issues of legal and ethical use of computers for members of the campus community.
Are there guidelines or policies for computer use?
The Policy on the Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources provide a general framework for understanding your rights and responsibilities. WAM Guidelines have also been developed to clarify expectations for users of WAM accounts. Violations of both Guidelines are generally enforced under the Code of Student Conduct and Residence Hall Rules.
What are the most common violations?
The WAM Guidelines were created and are modified to reflect the most common problems. For example, sending chain mail and mass mail are considered misuse because it interferes with others use of a shared resource. Spamming, sending the same message to multiple newsgroups, is another common problem. Students are also not permitted to use their account for commercial purposes or personal financial gain. Other problems that are less frequent but more serious are messages that misrepresent your identity, using e-mail to threaten or harass someone, or using computing resources for some form of illegal activity.
What kinds of uses would be considered illegal?
There are several kinds of uses that might violate criminal laws of the State of Maryland or federal government. For example, the use of computing resources to commit fraud, copyright infringement, disseminate child pornography or obscenity, or gain unauthorized access to another computer system all carry criminal penalties. Use of e-mail to communicate threats and harassment could also result in a visit from a law enforcement agency. The use of the Internet can also lead to civil liability. Using the Internet to libel or defame someone, copy or distribute copyrighted material, or invade someone's privacy can result in lawsuits for huge sums of money.
What are the consequences for misusing university computing resources?
Serious or reoccurring incidents are handled as a violation of the Code of Student Conduct or Residence Hall Rules where sanctions will range from a formal reprimand to expulsion from housing or the university. Incidents that violate criminal laws may be reported to law enforcement authorities for prosecution, and students can be sued under civil law where appropriate.
Does the university monitor my use of the Internet?
university policy states that "the maintenance, operation, and security of computing resources require responsible university personnel to monitor and access the system. To the extent possible in the electronic environment and in a public setting, a user's privacy will be preserved." The university does not and cannot reasonably be expected to monitor the volume of e-mail that is sent and received. Personal Web pages are far too numerous to be reviewed by university personnel. However, other users frequently forward copies of inappropriate e-mail to university officials or alert them to Web pages that are in violation of university Guidelines or the law. Accounts that are given for classroom use are considered the property of the faculty member responsible for the course and are subject to inspection or review without notice.
Why can't I share my password with a friend?
According to university Guidelines, "[computing] resources are extended for the sole use of university faculty, staff, students, and other authorized users." The Guidelines further state that "users are responsible for safeguarding their identification (ID) codes and passwords, and for using them for their intended purposes only. Each user is responsible for all transactions made under the authorization of his or her ID." Sometimes passwords are shared with family members or partners out of trust. Not only does this violate the "sole use" provisions of the Guidelines, it also makes you vulnerable to misuse of your account since sometimes the trust in a relationship can break down and misuse of a computer account has been a common weapon for seeking revenge. Remember, you are responsible for all activity on your account. It is recommended that you choose a password that someone can't readily guess and change it frequently.
Should I let my roommate or guests use my computer if it is connected to the residential network?
university Guidelines also state that "each user is responsible . . . for all network activity originating from his or her data jack." You have to make your own judgment as to whether or not you want to let others use your personal property such as your computer or printer. However, once someone is on the network using a data jack that is personally assigned to you they are using a university computing resource. Remember, computing resources are extended for your "sole use." Computing systems will trace any misuse of that network connection to you, and you will be held accountable under university policies and procedures. You may also be criminally and civilly liable for misuse. You undertake great risk when you let someone else use your computer without taking proper precautions.
What should I do if I feel I have been the victim of computer misuse?
There are a number of resources depending upon the kind of misuse that you experience. For example, if you are the recipient of harassing e-mail or feel that you have been the victim of a computer crime, it would be most appropriate to notify the University Police. If the behavior is committed by another student, you could consider a disciplinary referral to the Judicial Programs Office or Rights and Responsibilities in the Department of Resident Life. If the misuse is precipitated by someone who is not a member of our campus community, you may want to complain to their Internet Service Provider (ISP) by sending an e-mail message to postmaster@(the name of the ISP). If you are uncertain of your rights or responsibilities, contact Project NEThics at (301)405-8787 or send an e-mail message to NEThics@umd.edu.