So…You Want to Redefine ‘Privacy’, eh?

There has been a sustained argument across the ‘net and in traditional circles, that privacy is being redefined before our very eyes. Oftentimes, we see how a word transforms by studying its etymology – this is helpful in understanding the basis of the words that we utter. What do we do, however, when we work to redefine not just a word’s definition (such as what the term ‘cool’ refers to) but its normative horizons?

In redefining the work ‘privacy’ to account for how people are empirically protecting their privacy, are we redefining the word, or the normative horizon that it captures? Moreover, can we genuinely assume that the term’s normative guide is changing simply because of recent rapid changes in technology increase the difficulty in exercising our right to privacy in digitized environments? To argue that these normative boundaries are shifting largely because of how digital networks have been programmed presupposes that the networks cannot be designed in any other way, that digital content will flow as it does now the same way that gravity acts on our physical bodies as it presently does. The difficulty in maintaining such an analogy is that it assumes that there are natural laws to an immanent programming languages that structure how we can participate in digital environments.

Continue reading

Teaching Portfolio – Save Everything?

Normally when I talk about retaining data, I talk about retaining targeted information – don’t save everything, only what you need, and (if the information is about other people) only what you said you’d retain for particular stated purposes.

I was at a TA Conference yesterday, and at the tail end of it one of the presentations was about creating a teaching portfolio and a teaching philosophy. In particular, we were encouraged to save everything from students that pertained to how we taught, as well as copies of course outlines/lecture notes/etc. The idea was that by aggregating all data, especially that from students, we could filter out what we don’t need – it’s easier to filter than to find more data.

This is the exact opposite way that I think that data retention should operate, and I’m not alone. The principles standing behind the EU’s Safehabour, as well as UoG privacy policies, both support my stance that all collected information must be targeted, people whose data is being collected must be aware of why it is being collected, and there must be a stipulation on the duration of time the information must be retained. I’m not really concerned with whether this particular presenter was recommending actions that at the least were in tension with the UoG’s privacy principles – what I’m interested in is whether you would keep all of this information? I can’t, not unless I’m totally up front with students, but I don’t know if that’s just me being particularly paranoid. Is retaining this information common practise in the teaching profession?

Social Networking – Why We Need to Educate Youth

This is a short post, but gives three definitive examples of why we need to develop and instill norms in youth concerning how to use digital resources.

Let’s help this woman find her camera!

Here’s the story (remember that…story).

In Britain a young woman (unfortunately) lost her camera. Some delightful chap decided that, rather than keeping the camera to himself, he’d try to get it back to her. Problem: he didn’t have her name, address, or anything that identified her beyond the pictures on the camera. Solution: post all of the pictures from the camera on Facebook and encourage tons of people to join the group the hopes that someone recognizes her. Problem: the embarrassment of having adult and non-adult pictures of yourself posted on the net.

Now, it turns out that this whole thing was viral marketing – the woman is an adult model and this was intended to promote a particular adult website. Nevertheless, based on the posts in the group that was set up, people saw this as a legitimate way to deliver missing property – many didn’t see anything wrong with deliberately posting pictures of a woman in various states of dress without first receiving her willful consent.

Continue reading

Techno-magnates and the Third World

In recent years we’ve seen some of the most powerful men in the world decide to turn their gaze towards the third-world. What has been surprising is that their intent has not been to solely dominate and exploit the most economically disadvantaged peoples in the world, but to try and relieve some of the ills that they face.

Techno-magnates – Bill and Nicholas – and their projects

The two most prominent individuals that have turned their attention to the third world have been Bill Gates, who is spending billions through the Melissa and Bill Gate’s Foundation to try and raise standards of living by improving literacy and fighting disease. The foundation is best known for its in work fighting disease – it has targeted Acute Diarrhoeal Illness, Acute Lower Respiratory Infections, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis (to name a few) as their primary targets.

Nicholas Negroponte, the magnate and visionary behind the One Laptop Per Child Program, want to bring the digital revolution to poor children and let them enjoy the ensuing benefits of the digital revolution. The theory is that, by distributing textbooks electronically, by giving children a way of learning to program, by giving them rugged pieces of technology that can be powered by a bicycle or foot loom, children can receive top-rate education despite living in Less Economically Developed Countries (LECDs).

Continue reading

Education, Social Networks, and Privacy

In this post I want to consider privacy from a bit of a ‘weird’ point of view: What information do you want students to reveal to each other and yourself, and what do you want to reveal to them? What ethical responsibilities do educators have to their students concerning their disclosure of information to one another?

In many classrooms, instructors and their students develop bonds by becoming vulnerable to one another by sharing personal stories with one another. ‘Vulnerability’ should be understood as developing a rapport of trust that could be strategically or maliciously exploited, though there is not an implicit suggestion that vulnerability will necessarily lead to exploitation. Some of the best teachers and professors that I have ‘revealed’ themselves as human beings – once I saw that they were like me I felt more comfortable participating in the classroom environment. With this comfort and increased participation, I developed more mature understandings of subject material and my personal stances regarding it. The rapports of trust that I developed with faculty led to the best learning environments I have ever experienced.

Continue reading