Thursday, October 30, 2014

Privacy - is it always a good thing?

A couple of weeks ago we ran a parent session about keeping children safe online.  At the time we pointed out that many very young children already have a digital footprint - it is one that has been created for them by their parents who have posted family photos and information online.  For most of us there is already "big data" about where we live, how old we are, our family and friends, where we shop, what we buy, what movies we have seen, what music we have downloaded, photos we've added to various sites about places we have been, our medical records, pharmaceuticals we've taken, websites we have visited, our emails, tweets, phone calls and messages we have sent and received and images of us taken on security cameras.  Most of us have given up all this data willingly - we are happy to trade our privacy, safety and security because we see the benefits of greater connectivity.

In his book 21 Trends for the 21st Century, Gary Marx writes that in the face to face world we have more control over our identity and privacy than in the online world, where invasions of privacy and unwanted attentions are commonplace.  At ASB we take all this very seriously.  We want to educate our parents and children about these issues so that they can be aware of the risks and make good decisions about privacy.  Recently a jihadist was arrested in India for making threats on a website against our school.  This got me thinking about the benefits that are associated with monitoring all our data and the importance of striking a balance between our safety and our civil liberties.   Marx asks an interesting question:  who should be monitored - and in the interest of fairness, should everyone be monitored?  Shouldn't we all be happy that data is being collected because it can prevent terrorist activities or help to capture criminals?  And how private should private be, especially if it impacts on the safety of our community?

Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee via Compfight cc

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