It’s no secret that Microsoft has serious issues with security. It’s almost normal for us to hear news about the “latest” vulnerability in one product or another. But there is also the problem of government spying on data. For the individual, this may be an irritation at the very least, but for those involved in academic or scientific research, the issue takes on a whole different dimension.
It is common knowledge, too, that most research requires approval from an ethics committee to ensure that they researchers have their ducks lined up. From making sure scholarly procedures are followed to ensuring data security, the committee has to take a close look at what is being proposed.
This is where Microsoft products may fail to support the academe. According to Adam Fish, who published an article about this topic on Physorg, Microsoft is purportedly giving the NSA access to personal metadata – and not just any kind of access, but direct access.
Now imagine a bunch of scientists conducting research on the possibility of erasing certain memories. This type of study certainly will have tons of confidential data, and the documentation will probably contain a lot of “trigger keywords” that the NSA looks out for. Can you now imagine what they can do with that direct access?
Fish ends his article with:
I’m using Microsoft Word on my university computer to write this article and when it’s finished, I will send it for editing using Microsoft Outlook. I use both these programs to write about and discuss private issues regarding my research subject’s political convictions.
I have responsibilities towards them but can no longer guarantee that the content of my communications with them or about them is confidential.
Indeed, if universities rely on Microsoft products for software suites, they have to realize that their data – which is probably supposed to be confidential – may be compromised at some point.
Something to think about…
[Image via hothardware]