Computer Ethics Policy
Georgia State University
March 6, 1995
This document details the Acceptable Use and Ethics Policy which
covers the proper utilization of the computers, networks and
related services at Georgia State University. This policy has
been developed to ensure a quality computing environment at GSU
that furthers the academic, research and service mission of the
University. Providing this environment requires equitable
resource distribution, computer and network availability,
personal privacy and data integrity. Achieving this goal
requires that everyone in the University community cooperate and
adhere to these guidelines.
This policy has been developed by members of the Wells Computer
Center, in conjunction with the Offices of the Dean of Students,
Human Resources and Legal Affairs.
2.0 Authorized users
Individuals who have been granted and hold an active and
authorized account on a GSU computer or network and abide by this
policy are considered authorized users.
3.0 Authorized use
Authorized use is predicated on access by an authorized user.
Authorized use is that which is consistent with the academic,
research and service goals of this institution and falls within
the guidelines of this policy and the policy of the Board of
Regents which states that property owned by the institution shall
be used only for institutional purposes.
4.0 Individual Rights
The computing professionals at GSU are committed to preserving
the privacy of each authorized user of the computer systems and
gives every effort to ensure that computers and electronic
devices are not used to prevent this. However, it is impossible
to guarantee such privacy and there are several specific issues
that users must be aware of.
Electronic mail messages are not secure and therefore should not
be assumed to be private. Also, despite best efforts to prevent
it, a determined person could gain unauthorized access to stored
data and thus violate your privacy.
Under the Georgia Open Records law it is possible that
information which is stored on a computer system, including
electronic mail, would be available for inspection by any member
of the public.
Finally, in the process of performing normal systems/network
management and auditing functions, it may be necessary to view
user's files or confidential information. However, system,
network and application administrators are bound by both
professional ethics as well as job requirements to respect the
privacy of those involved and not initiate disclosure of
information obtained in this manner.
4.2 Freedom of Expression
Freedom of expression is a constitutional right afforded to all
members of the community and existing University policies apply
equally to computerized expression, subject to Section 3.0 of
GSU computer and network users should realize that there are
services available on the Internet which may be considered
offensive to some. With this in mind, users take responsibility
for their own navigation of the network.
4.3 Safety and Freedom from Harassment
While GSU cannot control harassment or unsolicited contact on the
network, those who believe they have been harassed should follow
standard University procedures and bring such violations to the
attention of the University Ombudsperson.
5.0 Individual Responsibilities
Users of GSU computer equipment are expected to understand this
policy and abide by it. This policy is widely distributed and
easily accessible, so lack of knowledge of this policy is not an
excuse for failure to observe it. Questions regarding this
policy can be directed to the newsgroup gsu.comp.policy, to the
Director of the Wells Computer Center, or to the Office of Legal
Affairs. Disregard for this policy may result in disciplinary
actions as set forth in Section 6.0 of this document.
5.1 Morals and Ethics
Users are expected to respect the right to privacy of other
individuals on the network. Do not go browsing around in
someone's files even if security permissions permit. This is
analogous to condoning someone rifling around on your desk or in
your house simply because you forgot to lock your door. It is
expected that explicit permission from the owner of the files is
obtained before they are accessed.
Users are expected to respect the right of freedom of expression
of other individuals on the network.
5.2 Expected Behaviors
This section details some guidelines relating to computer based
activities. GSU computer users are expected to read signon
messages and system news for specific information such as system
changes, policies and scheduled downtime. Additionally,
valuable information is available in the GSU gopher and World
Wide Web and the various GSU newsgroups related to computing.
System and network administrators may find it necessary to
contact you regarding policy issues. If repeated attempts to
contact an individual are unsuccessful, the system or network
administrator may be forced to temporarily deactivate the account
simply to compel the owner to make return contact.
5.2.1 Userids and passwords
It is a violation of policy to use a computer userid (or any
computer resource) that is not assigned to you or to share userid
passwords with other individuals (including computing personnel).
A computer userid is granted to an individual and that
individual is responsible for any use of the account. If you
knowingly share your password with someone else and this policy
is violated, you will also be subject to the sanctions outlined
in Section 6.0. If file sharing with others is necessary, there
are methods and techniques to accomplish this without sharing
your userid and password.
Users should follow guidelines for password selection which
includes choosing a password that cannot be easily guessed by
others, changing it often, and verifying the last login time.
Remember that your password is the first line of defense against
unauthorized access to your account.
5.2.2 Providing services
Users are not permitted to provide network or computer-based
services using GSU computers or networks without prior permission
from the department responsible for the computers or networks in
question. Examples of such services include, but are not
limited to, FTP, WEB, and MUD servers.
5.2.3 Unauthorized access
You must not attempt to guess or break another user's password.
Attempts to gain access to GSU computers and networks to which
you are not authorized is prohibited. You may not use GSU
facilities to login or attempt to login to computers external to
GSU to which you are not authorized.
If you suspect that your account has been compromised, you should
contact the computer or network administrator in the department
which is responsible for the computer or network in question.
5.2.4 Unauthorized monitoring
Users are not permitted to use computers and networks to monitor
or attempt to monitor electronic transmissions.
5.2.5 Disruption of service
Deliberate attempts to disrupt the operation or degrade the
performance of computers or networks are prohibited.
5.2.6 Distribution of Resources
Do not circumvent or attempt to circumvent any policies or
procedures that have been established to ensure equitable
resource distribution in our shared computing environment. For
example, you must not deliberately circumvent the modem
5.2.7 Mass Electronic Mailings
University-wide electronic mailings are not permitted without
prior permission due to the heavy use of resources this requires.
In general, there are better and more efficient ways to make
information globally available. Use of the GSU newsgroups is
encouraged for these activities.
5.2.8 Game playing
The policy regarding game playing on GSU computers and networks
is established by the department responsible for the computers
and networks in question. However, no department should permit
game playing to interfere with normal University business.
5.2.9 Business use
There is to be no use of GSU computers or networks for non-GSU
business purposes or non-GSU related employment. Billable
accounts permit limited use for these purposes and are available
on some Wells Computer Center computers. Contact the Account
Manager at WCC for more information about billable accounts.
5.2.10 Use of copyrighted or licensed materials
There shall be no copying or installation of software on GSU
computers if such copying or installation would violate any
copyright or licensing agreement. You may be asked to show a
valid license agreement to ensure the legal use of software on
GSU computers. Contact the department head responsible for the
specific computer if you have any questions regarding licensing
5.2.11 Usenet News
You must abide by the established rules of conduct of Usenet,
also known as "netiquette". This information is available both
from Client Services and from the news.newusers.questions
Violators of this policy may be subject to one or more of the
following sanctions which can be imposed by the department
responsible for the computers and networks on which the violation
- 1. admonition
- 2. temporary or permanent suspension of computer privileges
- 3. temporary or permanent suspension of lab privileges
Additional sanctions, such as University suspension and employee
action, may also apply as outlined in the Student Handbook and
the Classified Employee Handbook. Legal action can also be
taken as per Section 6.1. Appeals to these sanctions are
explained in Section 6.2.
6.1 Legal Restraints
Users of GSU computing facilities are expected to abide by State
and Federal laws that apply to the usage of computers. These
laws exist to "establish certain acts involving computer fraud or
abuse as crimes punishable by defined fines or imprisonment or
As an example, the Georgia Computer Systems Protection Act was
enacted in 1991 to "provide for criminal liability and the
definition of penalties for the crimes of computer theft,
computer trespass, computer invasion of privacy, computer
forgery, and computer password disclosure". The penalties range
from fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment up to 15 years. The
full text of this act and others are available via the GSU gopher
and World Wide Web.
Appeals to sanctions should be handled through the existing
University grievance and appeals policy for both employees and