Online dating and browsing porn on Columbia network

Originally Published: January 23, 2009
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Alice,

Is it illegal to view or download pornography on the Columbia network? What about dating online? I am an adult, grad student of legal age — almost 30. I am returning to the university environment after quite sometime. I will be moving into Columbia provided housing and can't find anything definite on policies on browsing poronography or using online dating sites (gay and straight). Who can I turn to to get answers — anonomously of course. Thanks.

Dear Reader,

Oh, the places we go (online that is). Columbia does not prohibit students from downloading pornography or visiting dating websites over the university network. As long as you don't download anything illegal (like copyrighted movies or pictures of minors), feel free to fulfill your needs online — academic and otherwise.

That being said, there are a few other considerations if you want to check out porn using the university network. First, Columbia's network and security policy requires all users to protect their computers from viruses. Some pornography sites are notorious for containing malicious software like ad-ware or spy-ware. To prevent your computer from being infected, Columbia offers free anti-virus software to students. If your machine does get a virus or worm that harms other systems, Columbia has the right to cut off your network access. In addition, downloading a very large number of files, porn or otherwise, uses a lot of bandwidth or network power, which may cause the university to limit your internet access.

On the other hand, the university does its best to protect your online privacy. Unless there is a serious reason, Columbia will not look at your email or internet usage files. For more information, check out the Columbia University network security and privacy policies or contact the Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) Help Desk at (212) 854-1919. You can also visit the CUIT office at 102 Philosophy Hall during walk-in hours.

Best of luck with your graduate degree and enjoy your online study breaks!

Alice