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IPFS News Link • Drug War

UA mandates participation in privacy invading online e-CHUG drinking survey

• Daily Wildcat
When you access e-chug, you're prompted for demographic and personal information about yourself. It will also ask you to enter information about your drinking habits, family history, and to complete the World Health Organization's AUDIT...

3 Comments in Response to

Comment by Terry Bressi
Entered on:
For non-University affiliates, the online survey is anonymous in that it doesn't ask for your name or any other personally identifying information although I'm sure it collects IP addresses.

If you're a student at an institution that is mandating you take the online survey however, authentication is required. In this case, according to e-CHUG's website at:

students are required to authenticate themselves by using the "Personal Reflections & Verification of Completion Program". This program requires your name, University ID number, and campus email address. e-CHUG then provides this information to the University so they can independently verufy that a particular student completed the survey.

While e-CHUG claims they don't provide the answers to the University in a form that can be linked back to a specific student, e-CHUG itself has this information and can make the correlation for authenticated students. I found no comprehensive privacy statement on e-CHUG's website and no description of how long the data will be kept and who will have access to it. We do know however that the program is being used in the U.S., Canada, and Australia and is also associated with international health organizations like the World Health Organization.

Once law enforcement and the judicial system realize this kind of historical data exists online and can be traced back to individuals (who went to schools mandating participation), you can bet that e-CHUG will fold like a deck of cards whenever a subpoena is issued to them regarding ongoing legal action associated with that individual.

If this program was strictly anonymous and voluntary, it would be a good online resource for folks to use. This isn't the case for students however and the privacy implications are serious given the authentication method used by e-CHUG to verify to school administrators that a particular student has participated.

I'm fairly sure this is a violation of FERPA - the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act - as well. Universities are setting themselves up for lawsuits by mandating participation in this online survey.

Comment by Tyger Gilbert
Entered on:

I took the test and found it enlightening, even though I drink relatively seldom. The questions it asks had no personally identifiable information to them, so I don't see it as privacy invading at all. The educational and self-evaluation benefits to taking this test would probably be helpful to just about anyone who drinks, and some who don't. The only problem with it is that it is "manditory", but I guess attending U of A isn't manditory either.
I'd recommend taking the test voluntarily, anyway.

Comment by William Shaw
Entered on:

Avoid any survey when personel questions are asked. NOTB !