Young people confuse privacy with safety.
While most kids carefully follow the rules that parents and teachers set out — no names, addresses, telephone numbers, or other personal information — when it comes to the big privacy picture, it turns out that many children understand very little about their personal data, how it accumulates, and how it affects privacy. (Check out my privacy links at the end of this post.)
Thus we need an alternate privacy teaching strategy that helps 21st Century kids — all ages really — understand how their digital-world data accumulates — even when users observe the all-important safety rules.
Bruce Schneier, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, writes about and consults on data and security, and his blog is Schneier on Security. In a 2010 post, A Revised Taxonomy of Social Networking Data, Schneier suggests how to classify data into six personal categories, the data generated as we use social media (and I’ll add other websites and games), and how all this data creates an individual’s digital profile. (Note: profile is another 21st Century vocabulary word).
In his post Schneier describes how we create data on multiple levels — data that we share and data that people share about us. His categories also illustrate how the connected world creates data about each of us by connecting all the information that we generate online. His taxonomy is a useful way to think about personal privacy and can easily be the topic of a family discussion or classroom lesson. I’ll summarize below, but do go to Schneier’s blog post to get more detail.
Our online data, mostly but not exclusively from social media, includes:
- Service data — what we give to a social networking (or other) site when we begin using them and set up accounts;
- Disclosed data — what we post on our social media pages (think Facebook, Instagram, or texting apps for starts);
- Entrusted data — the information that we post on other people’s pages and once posted — comments, for instance — we lose control of because it is no longer on a site where we hold sway;
- Incidental data — what other people post about us that we have no voice in and may not even know about;
- Behavioral data — the information that most sites collect about us — for example, Google knows where I like to shop online, when I’ve made purchases, where I make travel plans, and every single search I’ve made; and finally
- Derived data — the conclusions that can be drawn about you by aggregating the data that you generate — what you do, who you know, where you live, or even your appearance in online photos. Think of this as a puzzle with lots of little data pieces that comes together to form a personal digital profile of each individual.
This taxonomy discussion can offer everyone greater knowledge, beginning in fourth or fifth grade, about what information is in the digital world about each person. Using categories in the taxonomy depersonalizes the discussion and focus on the trustworthiness of sites, the integrity of people we associate with, and the expanse of data puzzle pieces we leave to be collected and put together. Questions we might ask in our conversation or lesson include:
- What is privacy?
- What is the difference between privacy and safety?
- What is the effect of the data on each person’s privacy?
- What categories can a person control — at least somewhat?.
- What categories are out of a person’s control?
- How does all the information come together to be used by marketers?
For younger children the categories for entrusted and incidental data will broaden their understanding of personal privacy and demonstrate how a person’s behavior contributes to decreased privacy. Pre-adolescents and teens will be intrigued by the personal privacy puzzle — pieces that are put together and aggregated by vendors and data marketers.
The best thing about this strategy for a privacy conversation or school lesson? Young people can be engaged in digital world conversations that relate to everyone and is not about rules.
N.B. I ran across this interesting quote by Guy Gavriel Kay, a well-known Canadian author. Kay, who also helped edit J.R.R. Tolkien’s unpublished work (after Tolkien’s death), made an interesting comment about privacy, though I’ve been unable to find the surrounding context that contains this comment.
My privacy concerns have to do with the world, other people, technology intruding upon us — what Talmudic scholars once called ‘the unwanted gaze.’
A Few Privacy Links
- App Guides – Kids Privacy website
- COPPA Links – MediaTechParenting.net – While I am not a great fan of the COPPA law, this link will take readers to information that explains why COPPA is concerned about data gathering and children’s privacy.
- Children’s Online Privacy: A Resource Guide for Parents – Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
- How to Protect Your Kids’ Privacy Online – Wall Street Journal
- The Five Biggest Threats to Your Kid’s’ Privacy and What You Can Do About Them – Yahoo Tech
- Want to Comply With Online Privacy Laws for Kids: Good Luck – Bloomberg Business Week
- Oversharenting: Why We Owe Our Kids Online Privacy – Time
- Mobile Apps and Children’s Privacy – The Diane Rehm Show (NPR)
- Contracts and Agreements Page – MediaTechParenting.net