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To chat or not to chat

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By Jacob Dube

Ryerson’s Computing and Communication Services (CCS) wants to have Google Chat as a feature for Ryerson Gmail users — if Google Chat’s privacy agreements change.

Google Chat is an instant messaging feature on the email service that allows users to see when contacts are online and message them.

“Google Chat is important for getting work done while collaborating on projects and documents. It’s a useful communications channel to complete the picture,” said Brian Lesser, director of CCS.

Ryerson began using Google Apps for Education as their online collaboration platform in 2012. Google and Ryerson are under a written agreement that gives Ryerson users more privacy protection than the average Google user. Google Chat, however, does not meet Ryerson’s privacy standards.

Google Chat reveals information about users — like work habits — and retains it within Google without permission.

“Whenever we look at programs at Ryerson, we always think of how can we make privacy the default,” Lesser said. “But this is one place where we couldn’t do that. We put the request to Google but they haven’t said if they would or wouldn’t do it, and that’s where we are at this point.”

Hongbo He, assistant director of application services at Ryerson, requested that the domain must be privacy by default — instead of users having to manually change privacy settings —  to allow the Google Chat feature for Ryerson Gmail users.

“It is possible for individual users who realize what the system is doing to change the setting to ‘only allow people that I’ve explicitly approved to see when I’m online,’” He wrote to Google.

“But, it’s not possible to make that the default across [the Ryerson] domain. It’s not privacy by default hence we had to disable chat in our domain.”

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