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I am not sure that Academia is the right place to post this, as it would probably be better suited for Law.se.

I am a student in Italy. My university requires unrestricted access to my personal computer for an afternoon to install a certain software. I obviously have security concerns, so I have contacted the responsible for my course to know if I could be given the key to install such software personally. He has explicitly stated that there are no alternatives to the standard process of giving in my computer to the tech department for one afternoon.

On one side am reluctant to give unrestricted access to my computer for security reasons, as I have personal files stored on my machine; on the other side I need to have access to such software because it is required for a course in the future.

Is such a request even legal or a common request in academia? How can I avoid giving unrestricted access to my personal machine while still obtaining this software?

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    You could buy the software on your own. If they are gifting you a license they can probably attach conditions to that, but I agree it's really icky. Especially if the software is needed for your classes. What are their options for students who do not have a personal computer? Is this software available in the computer pool? You could use that instead. – nengel Nov 16 '17 at 10:14
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    Ask to be present when the tech support installs the software and stare them down sternly. – TheWanderer Nov 16 '17 at 10:25
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    I can't imagine an institution that is willing to use IT peoples' time to install a software on every single student's computer. That sounds absolutely crazy. – Cape Code Nov 16 '17 at 10:40
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    Is it possible to borrow a university owned laptop or use a computer at the university? As @nengel said, what about students who don't have a personal computer (or not the right operating system, if the software is OS specific)? – Mark Nov 16 '17 at 10:41
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    @InquisitiveLurker: Matlab's not a good example. My campus has a universal Matlab license that did not require administrator assistance. – aeismail Nov 16 '17 at 22:17
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My university requires unrestricted access to my personal computer for an afternoon to install a certain software.

Your university has messed up. Are you really sure that it's the university requiring this? Maybe it's the isolated action of your professor, in agreement with their department IT (not the university one).

He has explicitly stated that there are no alternatives to the standard process of giving in my computer to the tech department for one afternoon.

I've never, ever seen an academic software licence requiring such a procedure.

On one side am reluctant to give unrestricted access to my computer for security reasons

You're rightly reluctant.

How can I avoid giving unrestricted access to my personal machine while still obtaining this software?

First, contact your course mates to start a collective action. I suggest you to write an email, signed by all students, to the dean supervising the courses of your field, the head of the department to which your professor belongs to, and, if there is one, the head of the IT university service. Copy the email to the rector too. Express clearly your concerns and state that is totally unacceptable to require students to give access to their personal computers. If your university insists on this position, ask them a copy of the licence agreement.

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You'll have to look elsewhere for legal advice, but from an academic point of view this is extremely unusual.

Most academic software licenses make a distinction between software that is allowed to be installed on student's personal machines and software that is only allowed to be installed on university-owned machines. For student software the software distributor always has some mechanism in place to allow students to achieve that installation on their own.

As to why your university has instituted this policy we cannot guess.

1) Politely inform your technology department that you are not comfortable handing over your personal property and ask that you be allowed to perform the installation yourself. This is a reasonable request that should be accommodated. If they refuse, ask them to be specific as to why.

2) If nothing else, politely insist that you schedule a time so they can conduct the installation with you present. Most software installations take just a few minutes but at worst take an hour or two. Again, this is a reasonable request. If they refuse, ask them to be specific as to why.

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This is indeed very odd. If you are sufficiently tech-savvy to do this, one option may be to set up a virtual machine that they can install the software onto. They can have root access to that, without needing permissions to browse your computer.

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If your concern is personal files that are currently on your machine, then moving them onto an external hard drive and back should address that. If the concern is whether the software will have access to personal files in the future, an option would be buying a computer just for this software. And as Flyto says, a vitual machine is another option, but if you're really paranoid, that's not as secure, as they will still have physical access to the entire machine.

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