By SHANNON O. WELLS
As much as online videos are expected to be indefinitely accessible with a quick search and/or click, the digital space to store those videos is not infinite, at least not without a price.
Vendor-imposed limitations to video storage as well as software licensing and privacy notifications were among topics discussed at the Senate Computing and Information Technology committee meeting on Nov. 15.
Based on the Panopto video platform’s recent price restructuring, any video not viewed for 180 days will be moved to an archive, and videos not viewed or accessed within 120 days after moving to the archive will be deleted, explained Adam Hobaugh, assistant vice chancellor and deputy chief information officer of Pitt IT.
However, there is a fail-safe.
“There’s gonna be some policy changes in terms of how the data is handled,” he said. “It’s important to note that if the video … is accessed at any point within a 300-day period, that clock restarts. If you, in fact, do want to keep it in the funnel through storage, then it’s pretty simple to do.”
Among many vendors, digital storage costs are increasing, Hobaugh said, noting the new agreement with Panopto will cost Pitt roughly $210,000 for the software, its use and “back-end” storage. “So if we didn’t make any changes to the policies at all right now, the costs would go up to around $270,000 per year … As a result of them engaging with us and us negotiating with them, we were able to save about $225,000 over a three-year period.”
Zoom video users also will be affected by the vendor-storage changes. Zoom meetings recorded and created outside of Canvas will be stored within Zoom’s database rather than via Panopto.
“These videos will be stored for 30 days … Once they’re deleted, they can be accessed from the trash folder within Zoom for another 30 days, before they’re purged,” Hobaugh said. “Some people just have them set directly to record to a local device or some other endpoint … You can download any of those recordings.”
Responding to a concern that employees who archive materials on Panopto should receive advance notice so they can secure the videos they want to keep, Hobaugh said a “messaging campaign” is planned.
“This will be over a period of time. There’ll be lots of messages, and then on top of that, we’ll be providing individual support to people (who) want to talk through what their options are.”
For educational recordings used infrequently, Hobaugh suggested using local devices or OneDrive as storage options.
“OneDrive will be a good fit for most people,” he said, “because with that you can share, you can collaborate, you can do the same sort of thing that you do within Panopto.”
Further addressing frustrations about the limitations and changes, Hobaugh said, “It’s unfortunate, to be honest with you, just generally speaking, the market. There’s no free lunch anymore.
“A lot of the companies didn’t really think forward (and) we’re actually the ones being impacted by this because all of a sudden their profit margins are very thin,” he added. “They come back to their customers and say, ‘Hey, we have to increase the cost, and in many cases, the costs are significant.’”
Software licensing agreements
On the topic of impenetrable and confusing software licensing and privacy policies, Michael Pierce, from the Office of University Counsel, said the office would prepare a user-friendly document to refer to when questions and concerns arise.
“No one ever gets those terms emailed to them because they are hundreds of pages. But I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have a short statement of what those policies are and how information is safeguarded,” Pierce said.
Responding to an earlier comment that downplayed students’ responsibility for knowing and understanding software policies, Pierce clarified that terms really apply to the University, as the vendor’s customer. “So those privacy policies that apply to each piece of software are important. The end users do need to know about those,” he said. “The terms in the master license agreement, though, I think … confused things, because students aren’t a party to that contract.”
He noted that privacy policies among software and digital application products tend to be similar and based on an “industry standard” depending on the type of software and information being shared.
Noting the density and length of the agreements, committee member Steven Belle, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, pointed out the obligatory nature of many software privacy agreements at the University.
“Some of the software is required for us to do our jobs, so we don’t really have an option to not click on it,” he said, noting the volume of DocuSign documents he gets in a typical week. “If I refused to use Docusign, I would have to leave the University, right? Because there’s no alternative. Students are forced to use Canvas, as are faculty and staff. There are no alternatives, yet they have to sign it. So what’s the point of reading? You read it, you disagree with it, and then what happens?”
Pierce noted that vendors are required by law to provide disclosures in such areas as storing and destroying information when someone finishes using it. “And so kind of highlighting those for students to make it more accessible and understandable, we can certainly do that and boil things down from that longer form into a more manageable document.
“At that point, though,” he added, “it is still the responsibility of the end user to know that.”
Shannon O. Wells is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com.
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