The following is a Letter to the Editor submitted to North by Northwestern and does not necessarily reflect the views of its editorial board.
You know what’s slightly more annoying than a spontaneous, involuntary subscription to a Listserv? Two strangers giving away your personal information to a third-party organization renowned for their difficulties in warding off hackers – all for the sake of their political campaign.
Most mornings I awake to a surplus of new correspondence, which only grows throughout the day as emails flow in. However, this past Wednesday, I found Sky and Emily’s message – entitled “hi.” – when I awoke. Out of curiosity and mild exasperation, I read through, scrolled to the bottom, and discovered that this team used the service MailChimp to send this message to the masses.
What’s the big deal with that? Let me explain.
Sky and Emily utilized Northwestern’s directory service to feed countless names, emails, addresses, Greek affiliations and phone numbers into this third-party service. You can see exactly what information they have about you if you select “update your preferences” at the bottom of the seemingly-innocuous email. Much to the dismay of myself and many friends, we found our campus addresses, phone numbers and school information in the hands of this foreign service. We never consented to forfeiting this to any unaffiliated company, and many of us certainly would never do so.
If you’re reading this and think that the information on Northwestern’s directory is public, you would be incorrect. The action of bestowing a third-party service with our information for political reasons directly violates the policy of directory use, which is detailed on the directory’s page. Northwestern maintains a high standard of online security for a reason; that’s why we have irritating multi-factor authentication, why the Email Defense System exists, why a security wall guards our wireless network. They want to protect the members of Northwestern from security breaches, identity theft, phishing and more.
Surrendering our personal information to an insecure organization such as MailChimp – against the consent of everyone on the email@example.com listserv – puts everyone at risk. Do a basic Google search of MailChimp. For two years, they have struggled with hackers. They simply do not possess the technological protection that Northwestern does, and that puts us all at risk. Despite “being woke,” this act displays a campaign team that carelessly fails to do their research about basic internet security in the technological age. Now, we must all suffer the potential consequences.
Personally, that doesn’t inspire me to “be unafraid.”
Ava Serra, Weinberg junior