Through the Education Lens

"The Facebook Privacy War: What Is Personal Data?"

CJ Westerberg, May 10, 2010 9:14 AM

Two Minute Video Below "Data 101"
 What Is Data?  What Is Private?

By C.J. Westerberg

On the heels of The Daily Riff''s recent posts, "Get Off Facebook: Middle School Principal Takes On Cyberbullying" and "Is The New Facebook A Deal With The Devil?", you would think we might have a problem with Facebook.  Well, we do. 

Technology has MUCH to offer our society.  However, as with everything (especially these days), you have to keep a watchful eye on those companies and or individuals that may take advantage of a situation.   

Regarding technology and social network sites in particular, when you have privacy policies  that are changed mid-stream and where the customer has to actively monitor (!) the site's privacy settings, this is the time to let these companies know "we, the customer, won't buy into" this "kind of misrepresentation".  Especially when you have a behemoth like Facebook operating so cavalierly, it makes one think of Goldman Sachs with their arrogance and disregard for the customer.  Recently adding to Facebook's woes related to customers' outcry against its privacy changes, the company just encountered yet another too-big, too-fast incident with a tech glitch that jeopardized their standing with customers even further: private messaging that went public.

Check out the video below from Loren Feldman's 1938 Media running about 2 minutes. Hat tip for this from Wired magazine's GeekDad, "The Facebook Privacy War: What Is Personal Data?" with key excerpts:

"There is a current campaign on the internet for users to not log into Facebook for a whole day on June 6th, 2010. This comes in response to the recent changes made by Facebook to their privacy settings, especially to the one leaving the default "on" instead of "off." Basically it became quite apparent that Facebook is in fact, a business, and that your so-called "personal" data was for sale. To economists and investors, this was no surprise at all. They all expected Facebook to make a genuine attempt to make money at some point, and what better way than demographic targeted advertising?

When it came to the users though, the backlash to the recent changes and integration of Facebook across multiple sharing networks has been less than mixed. It's been negative. There have been constant tweets and articles written about Facebook's complete disregard for our "personal" data.. . ."

The good news in all this?  For one, the overall awareness and concern over privacy issues is a good thing. The Federal Trade Commission will be involved as collective pressure increases, from the general public to our government officials.  This can be both good and bad on certain levels depending how you feel about regulation, but in the case of Facebook, changing policy mid-stream unbeknown to many customers, should be treated similar to cases of "false advertising".   We just wonder what would have happened if the media didn't broadcast this change in events over at the Facebook ranch  . . . 

Businesses will have to operate understanding the customers will not be passive with regard to this issue, especially if Facebook starts losing customers or even their customer involvement (many are still remaining on Facebook but are dropping out from messaging, etc.).  Ultimately, as everyone understands the full ramifications, they hopefully will begin to be more  discriminating as to which services and information they choose to share.

From a parents point-of-view, we would suggest being more pro-active about social networks in particular.  Does an 11 year old REALLY need to be on Facebook?  Why?  Because his/her friends are?

From an education point-of-view, there will be more controversy surrounding the "data" that teachers will be accumulating about students as the increase in accountability,  school and student tracking grows.  There will be growing privacy issues and concerns.  As a parent, we would suggest keeping an eye on these developments, as we report them here at The Daily Riff.

Recently, a court ruled that all emails schools write about a student must be made available to the parents as it will be on the student record.  We agree with this wholeheartedly.  If you can't say it to someone's face, then don't say it at all.  Isn't that how it goes?


P.S.  The New York Times Magazine this weekend has a special report "The Data Driven Life"
which is a good read related to this issue. 

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