Saturday, August 7, 2010

Peekaboo, I C U !

You already have zero privacy. Get over it.
- Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems (1999)

On a recent morning, I spent some time cooling my heels in purgatory – or, in more secular terms – the doctor’s waiting room. Tired of leafing through multiple issues of The American Journal of Orthopedics, I unabashedly eavesdropped on a pair of women sitting beside me. One of the women was complaining about her teenage daughter, who had apparently been grumbling to her parents about the “major” lack of privacy in their house. “So what?” mused the woman’s companion. “That’s entirely normal at her age.” “Yes,” retorted the first woman, “but we found out she’d been posting pictures of herself in her underwear on Facebook!”

While most of us roll our eyes at the ill-considered behavior demonstrated by the teen, the paradoxical attitude she displayed about privacy is one that is increasingly mirrored by society at large. On the one hand, the media is rife with citizen complaints about personal information stored in databases, residential images on Google Earth and Maps, cell phone tracking, and so on. Meanwhile, millions of people divulge their most personal details on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. So, just what is the role of privacy in contemporary society, and how should we educate our students about it?

Privacy is a fundamental human right, and one that is vital to personal independence. Students often don’t realize how compromising their privacy now may come back to haunt them in the future. States, too, often fail to protect student privacy. A recent study found that states frequently collect more student data than is required, and often retain that data long after it should have been purged. In addition to test scores and grades, many systems retain student information such as Social Security numbers, health information, financial data, and disciplinary infractions for years after the student has graduated.

The safeguarding of one’s personal information by both individuals and larger entities is more important than ever, and with much higher risks at stake. Students need to understand that their personal privacy, both in-person and online, needs to be carefully guarded to protect both their safety and dignity.

My picks this week focus on individual privacy, and the difference between personal and private information. The resources below are all derived from CyberSmart!, which is now a part of Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that provides educators and parents with information and tools related to media and technology. I’ve relied on their film and video game reviews for years. CyberSmart! has long been a leader in promoting students’ personal safety and well-being in a digital world; this is a great pairing of two organizations whose mission is to protect kids in a wired world.

What’s Private?
Subjects: Safety, Writing
Grade: 2-3
In this lesson, students learn about how the Internet can foster collaboration among students worldwide. While co-writing a story online, students learn an important safety rule: Before sharing private information in cyberspace, they must get permission from a parent or teacher.

Private and Personal Information
Subjects: Safety, Technology
Grade: 6-8
Students learn they can converse and share ideas and opinions with others in cyberspace. They adopt a critical thinking process that empowers them to protect themselves and their families as they visit sites requesting private identity information.

Online Identity Theft
Subjects: Safety, Technology
Grade: 9-12
Students learn about the methods criminals use to steal identities online. They develop an identity theft prevention tip list and propose ways to communicate their tips to their families.

~Joann's Picks - 8/6/2010~

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