Thursday, January 30, 2014

Privacy in the Digital Age: A Conversation to Continue

Thank you to all of those who helped make the Privacy Panel held Wed. Jan. 29 such a success!  We started a great conversation regarding what privacy looks like today and what we can expect from the agencies that play big roles when it comes to collecting and sharing our personal information.  With the help of our panelists, we examined these issues from legal, marketing, and network security perspectives.  Together, these different perspectives gave shape to a more complete picture of personal data management in a digital world, one where laws, policies, and education were lagging behind the exponential growth of technology.  There were lots of great questions from the audience during the session, many of which we were left to ponder after the session ended.  We would like to keep that conversation going and are providing this online forum as a space for students and faculty to continue the discussion of privacy in the digital age.

The following video, "Hot on Your Trail: Privacy, Your Data, and Who Has Access to It" from NPR, touches on many of the issues that we talked about in the panel.  Check it out at the link below to see this well-illustrated and eye-opening portrayal of what is happening to our data during our normal day-to-day:

Here are some questions to get you thinking:

  • Based on the Panel or the video, what concerns do you have personally regarding privacy and your personal data?
  • During the Panel, we examined how the sharing of our data could be both helpful and harmful to us.  It can be collected to make our lives easier or to protect us from potential threats, but does that make it okay?  What level of privacy should we expect and what is reasonable?
  • Both the video and the Panel touched on the fact that our data is being transferred all of the time, often without our realizing it. So much of this stuff is obscure to us, either because of long Terms of Use Agreements or because of a lack of transparency in business and government.  How do we educate ourselves (or our children), especially when technology is changing so rapidly?
  • We got to examine the issue of Privacy from many different angles during our panel.  Looking through the lens of your major, what does privacy mean to you?  How will these issues affect you in your future career?

To contribute to the conversation, DO THE FOLLOWING:
  1. POST a comment to this blog post.  Respond to one of the questions above, or express any lingering thoughts that were left with you after attending the Panel.
  2. Check out some of the other posts.  Do you have any reactions to those comments?  If so, REPLY to keep the conversation going.

Thank you in advance for your participation.  We look forward to reading your comments!


Sean Leahy said...

Hi everyone, I thought that was a great and necessary discussion yesterday. So much rich material to chew on. What I keep coming back to is the idea that I'm often "voluntarily" giving up personal information when using the myriad services that were discussed, that I choose to broadcast something on Facebook, and therefore should not be surprised when Facebook turns around and sells that data I generated to advertisers. I believe that with the case of Facebook or Twitter, I may be able to avoid saying stupid things or opting not to “like” stuff. But, there are only so many services that I can avoid using before I’m no longer taking part in the 21st Century -- Google, cell phones, web browsers, Google Maps, I-Pass, GPS: if I’m concerned about my personal information/metadata being used and abused, is the only way to protect myself to avoid these services altogether? It seems like I can read all the EULAs I want, but unless I move entirely off the grid, I should expect to have my personal info harvested and shopped around. Anybody agree? Disagree?

Maggie Lawrence said...

I agree, Sean. What this discussion sparks in my mind is questions about how we (the U.S. socially/culturally) conceptualize the spaces we navigate digitally -- what is "public" space and what is "private" on the internet? The idea of public and private spaces is involved in much governmental regulation that protects (or does not protect) our privacy, right down to the Constitution. How do we as communities and/or individuals express agency in the issue through navigating these spaces -- without just going completely off the grid or willingly participating?

The parallels that come to mind for me are an instance of governmental regulation of information to protect privacy, and an instance of community/professional-ethical regulation to protect privacy: HIPAA legislation regarding the protection of medical information, and the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights, which seeks to protect library patrons and what/how they search for information. Patients had to advocate through the legal system in order to bring about HIPAA, and users and librarians advocated for a professional ethical standard for U.S. libraries which led to the Bill of Rights. Librarians have often refused government requests for patron records...and sometimes they haven't. However, in the world of librarians (shameless plug, I know), there is constant communication about these issues and decisions regarding the protection of privacy are often community-enacted.

My question here regarding the digital world is, how do we advocate for ourselves, how do we organize? Especially as much of our information goes first through a private company and then to others? The panelists made excellent points that consumers/users are the ones who will need to hold entities accountable... what does/can this look like?

Ricky Barsom said...

Most of my Problems would arise from a company charging too much for services that are not adequate for protecting my privacy. My credit info could be taken at some point, and I would loose even more money.