It seems so simple when we install apps. Download, click agree and OK a few times, and use. But it’s not as simple as it seems because we may be unintentionally giving free access to lots of our data. When is the last time you read the user agreement before clicking “agree?” When was the last tune you made sure your 21st Century digital kid to read the agreement? The app install process is not that simple a process after all, because your data is valuable, and not just for you.
After spending years teaching digital citizenship and civility in the K-12 world, I’ve now come to the conclusion that we parents and teachers should, in the midst of teaching children, stress that there is never privacy online. Yes, I know that we already teach this — or try to — in most schools and homes, but election 2016, accompanied by the theft and sharing of emails and other connected world materials, is scary. It has proven that everyone can be hurt by what they say online — even when what is said is not intended to generate hurtfulness.
Our confidential comments may differ from what we say in public. When our candid thoughts become widely available — yes, through hacking, but with kids, it’s through intentional sharing, gossip, or the unintentional mistakes that kids make — words can often be interpreted negatively. Moreover, at least for the time being, we live in a world where stealing a public figure’s private communications and making them public appears to be OK.
Although I believed that I had taken significant steps to maintain a modicum of privacy in my 21st Century digital life, I was wrong.
I am less than halfway through Bruce Schneier’s book, Data and Goliath, all about the hidden methods of collecting our personal data, and already I am discovering that my personal privacy plan has many holes. I’m not that different from most adults. Privacy, however, is going away, and we collaborate in the process by not making any specific decisions and by going along with the ways the Internet tracks us. We do have choices, and we educators and parents need to learn a lot more about maintaining privacy and then share what we’ve learned with young people.
In the book’s first chapters Schneier addresses data collection, how trackers get added to my computers and digital devices as little files called cookies. With a quick search, I found over 1,000 cookies and cache files on my laptop, despite the fact that I only allow cookies from places that I visit (about 650 were cookies). Some of these are useful and don’t bother me — like the cookies for the several catalogs where I regularly make purchases, the newspapers which I read, and the educational and musical organizations which I like. Read more about cache. Continue reading “How Much Privacy Do I Have? DuckDuckGo Gives More”→
It is a given in this age of connected life that our privacy is much diminished, and it does not matter whether we are children or adults. The trick seems to be for each us to make thoughtful decisions about what family members share and, as much as possible, be aware what is shared or collected about us.
For me, this has been an interesting week where privacy and kids’ privacy is concerned, because four distinct events occurred.
If you think that the digital world may be getting it together on the privacy front, at least when it comes to children, think again.
A disturbing article, Data Mining Your Children, published in Politico, describes how for-profit online learning companies provide digital textbooks, connected learning programs, and record keeping options while collecting an enormous amount of information on individual students. The question is, what will they do with this personal data? Politico is a Washington newspaper that covers national government policy and politics. Continue reading “Is Privacy Protected When a Student Learns Online?”→
All of us — children, parents, and teachers — need to think about the security of our privacy settings. Part of learning to live in the digital world involves understanding and competently using these settings, but we also must recognize their limitations.
Once we post or share digital content, the privacy of the information depends on the good judgment of others. No matter how securely the settings, our friends, who in theory understand our expectations, can err in judgment by copying, taking screen shots, or sharing the content in another digital location. When we post data via social media, we cede control of that information to others who may not abide by our privacy preferences.
In a Wired article, Don’t Make My Mistake: Always Think Before You Tweet, Randi Zuckerman, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerman, describes how she shared a picture with friends, only to have one of those friends share it in a more public way and eventually widely via Twitter. The picture caused a huge media stir, with people laughing that Zuckerman, the sister of the Facebook founder, did not understand the privacy settings. But she understood perfectly — it was her friend who did not get it.
Much of what a child or teen does online gets added to a digital profile. Even when information is not supposed to be collected, it accumulates – somewhere. Moreover, when a child or adolescent acts impulsively or thoughtlessly online, no way exists to erase or delete a digital mistake. Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society posts a great digital dossier videothat parents and educators may want to use as a conversation tool.