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Legal Brief: Working With Google Docs

Posted Nov. 1, 2010

"Legal Briefs" appears in e-Insidemonthly to keep faculty and staff informed of legal issues and their implications.An archive of past "Legal Briefs" is available online.

As the university continues to take advantage of the collaborative opportunities provided by the recent implementation of Google Docs into the FlashLine environment, it is important for faculty and staff to exercise caution and due diligence in following the university's established practice of securing sensitive university data and protected personal information against unauthorized access.

To reduce the likelihood of unauthorized access, faculty and staff should consider the following guidelines before using Google Docs for administrative or academic purposes:

  • Documents created and/or stored within Google Docs should not contain any student information protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This includes, but is not limited to: student grades, student social security numbers (SSN) or Banner ID numbers. Documents also should not contain any sensitive employee information including SSN or ID numbers, financial information such as bank routing/account numbers, security or infrastructure records.
  • Documents created and/or stored in Google Docs are subject to the same retention schedules as information stored on university servers. The retention schedules can be found at: http://www.kent.edu/universitycounsel/records/index.cfm. In the event of a public records request or court order, the document must be immediately retrievable.
  • As a best practice, your university Google Docs account (or any account containing sensitive or protected information) should not be accessed from an unsecured machine (public computer) or an unprotected machine (e.g., without spyware/anti-virus protection).
  • Sharing of documents created and/or stored in Google Docs could result in unintended individuals gaining access to the document. Be aware of with whom you are sharing documents; and unless it is necessary, do not give them full control of the document.

As the university continues to increase usage of the Google Docs application, each faculty and staff member should be careful to ensure that he/she is exercising responsible computing practices, which can be found at http://security.kent.edu.

For more information, contact Associate Counsel Michael Pfahl in the Office of the General Counsel at mpfahl@kent.edu.