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”→
We cannot discuss digital footprints and privacy with children and family members too much or too often. The point is not to scare anyone — the virtual trails that we leave are becoming almost routine — but rather to help family members consider how much data we share, intentionally or otherwise, and whether at times we should consider making at least a few changes in our online behavior.
Reporter Daniel Zwerdling describes the obvious digital trails we leave behind with our computers, mobile phones, GPS-guided car trips, and credit card purchases, and also our less-than-obvious footprints from prescription drug purchases, traffic camera sitings, and wifi tracking and facial recognition cameras that track us in shopping malls. That we make digital footprints is not surprising, however, the amount of data that is collected about us and used to form profiles is extensive and worrisome. Privacy — our privacy — has gone out the window. Continue reading “Digital Footprint Series on All Things Considered”→
Parents and educators know how much children and teens love to explore the digital world, and that’s not going to change. What needs to change is the way companies collect information about kids’ digital activities and then use it for marketing purposes, much of it exploitative. The Do Not Track Kids Act aims to stop tracking the activities of children and adolescents and encourages companies to adopt a Digital Marketing Bill of Rights for Teens.
I have a big problem with online web surveys and quizzes aimed at kids. Many are tricky digital techniques using old-fashioned fun and emulating magazine quiz features of the past, but with a contemporary cyber-twist that encourages today’s web users — and many, many children — to happily divulge all sorts of personal information.
When you encounter a quiz or survey on a website, it’s a good time to chat with children about privacy and the methods that websites use to collect personal information. Remind them that no kid-friendly erasers are currently available to whisk things away once children provide information.
On the web just about everything we do is recorded or tracked in some way. The digital footprints of our online lives are collected for all sorts of reasons, advertising primary among them, and while some companies collect data on individuals, others collect data and then combine information to identify trends. Either way, personal online privacy is eroded. Guiding children toward an understanding that nothing they do on the web is private is one of the greatest responsibilities of digital era parenting
The Wall Street Journal is publishing a series on privacy, describing how the digital documentation of our online lives is affecting our private lives and explaining the steps individuals and families can take to protect their privacy. A graphic in the series provides readers with step-by-step instructions to make Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer protect privacy.
Another part of the Journal series, a July 30, 2010 article, Sites Feed Personal Details to New Tracking Industry, provides additional information about tracking, detailing the steps that occur when a group collects a user’s information and then sells that information to companies and advertisers.