January 28th is known as Data Privacy Day. This should be of interest because of the erosion of privacy online. Every year, we see more data breaches affecting our personal data (e.g. SSNs, medical information, or passwords), and we see companies increase their efforts to take advantage of our online presence for advertising or building demographic data. Earlier this month Facebook launched a new "feature" called Graph, which they termed a social search engine. The concept is that Facebook will use data that you have associated in your Facebook account to build a database that can be searched. Want to find bicyclers in your area? No problem. What about who liked a product? Sure. What about married people? Getting a bit more creepy. While Facebooks says they will honor privacy settings, at what point do they enable it for "private" data as well as the data you have made broadly available?
This is just one example in the ongoing debate over how much the Internet and social media have eroded our individual privacy...and if we really care that it has done so. Does it really matter that anyone on the Internet knows what you bought on Amazon or where you live? Or do you care that the picture of your late-night adventure is out there for potential employers to find? As the line blurs between personal and public, these are questions that can only be answered on an individual basis, but it would certainly be good to have the tools necessary to protect our online identities.
As a part of Data Privacy Day, you can download a free version of lol...OMG. The book is a great resource for parents (and students!) about online reputations, digital citizenship, and cyberbullying. From the book description:
The ease with which digital content can be shared online, in addition to its many benefits, has created a host of problems for today’s high school students. All too often, students are uploading, updating, posting and publishing without giving a second thought to who might see their content or how it might be perceived.
lol…OMG! provides a cautionary look at the many ways that today’s students are experiencing the unanticipated negative consequences of their digital decisions – from lost job opportunities and denied college and graduate school admissions to full-blown national scandals. It also examines how technology is allowing students to bully one another in new and disturbing ways, and why students are often crueler online than in person. By using real-life case studies and offering actionable strategies and best practices, this book empowers students to clean up and maintain a positive online presence, and to become responsible digital citizens.
If you are interested in another way to think about data privacy, check out Obscurity: A Better Way to Think About Your Data Than "Privacy" from the Atlantic.