I have a FACEBOOK account and I apprecitate it, mostly. It has been a way for me to reconnect with people whom I have not communicated with in many years and build an updated network of friends. As someone living outside of their home country, it has been a great way to keep in touch with my family and close friends on a daily basis. I am, however, always cautious regarding my postings to my wall and the wall of my friends. I’m a fan of the Facebook message feature.
It’s true that many people choose to post information about their private lives and it is up to the individual to safeguard their privacy, in so much as they can, whilst interacting online. But how much do we really know about what is information is being collected about our online activities? I just read an interesting article from The New York Times by Steve Lohr, “How Privacy Vanishes Online”. This article reports that computer scientists and experts are determining that the information bytes that we submit about ourselves on social networking sites can be used to create a profile so specific that it could be used to determine an individual’s social security number. This “powerful data mining”, at the moment, is only being used in large university research projects according to the article. The article also points out that online privacy is no longer an individual issue, but connects to all of the friends/contacts within a person’s digital network. How much do you trust your friends? I agree that online privacy does not really exist. What you do online is basically public.
That’s my general “digital privacy” food for thought in this week’s COETAIL blog. Now, let me narrow the focus of this issue to how it relates to my students. My students have been engaged in direct lessons and discussion that focus on how to protect your privacy and keep safe online. The Brainpop video, Digital Privacy, is a great resource for reminding students about what information needs to be kept private. However, with so many of our students participating in social networking sites, texting, messaging, and photo tagging and sharing, it brings another dimension to this issue. How can you insure that you are protecting the online privacy of others? Common Sense Media, a resource out of Harvard’s graduate school of education which I have shared before, has an excellent lesson entitled “Secret Sharer”. In this lesson, students review and analyze case studies in which individuals have compromised the privacy of others in some way, whether it be from tagging, sharing a copy of a photo or video, or sharing personal information online. This is a serious issue that faces our students and their networks of friends and classmates and one that deserves direct instruction in our classrooms.
Digital Privacy Photo: http://www.inc.com/uploaded_files/image/digital-privacy-revolution-pan_6976.jpg