There has been a lot of talk surrounding the topic of protection and privacy for users on the Internet. It seems that everybody has an opinion on how to best secure your interactions with the virtual World. Buy a better firewall, use a VPN, encrypt your email are some of the suggestions that seem to be flying around these days. Ultimately, the strongest course of action that can offer a surety of privacy is to not engage with the Internet in the first place. Well, that is highly unlikely in today’s day and age. The likelihood that a student in a school in the 21st century will not have access to the Internet is decreasing and often not practical. More and more, students are interacting with Internet ready devices in the classroom either provided by the institution or through the adoption of BYOD policies. The BYOD policy has similarly been adopted in the business world and both business and education have seen an increased burden on the IT support structure (Maddox, 2015). Unfortunately, the adoption of BYOD policies has in many cases presented the IT support structure with an increase in the variety of platforms integrated into the system. Many schools have adopted an IT structure that isolates BYOD services through a managed tier based level of access to the outside World. Both public and private domains are being implemented into the same environment creating issues regarding security and ultimately privacy. Furthermore, access to an open public network allows for the use of tools that can bypass many of the security measures implemented to safeguard the students and staff. Although, students are required to agree to an acceptable use policy when logging in, it doesn’t prevent them from being exposed to inappropriate materials and issues surrounding privacy. Privacy is connected to security and we cannot separate the two (Zaharia, 2016). A decrease in security will potentially result in an increase in the risk to one’s personal privacy. As we increase the availability to access the Internet in the schools, we open the door to the potential risks to the security of student and staff privacy.
A Walk in the Cloud
One of the more exciting trends in Internet based software has been the shift to the cloud. The Software as a Service Model (SaaS) has been adopted by many of the large players currently operating in the World of software development. Major corporations such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Adobe all offer cloud based models for their platforms and devices. Many of the products created by the before mentioned companies are present within the school systems. Some companies offer educational models, such as the cloud based services offered by Google that connect students and staff to an array of educational software and tools. The products are free and function on a variety of device platforms. This is a true advantage for the 21st Century classroom and the students using the tools. How does this new model safeguard student privacy? Who owns the content if it is created and stored within the cloud? These are key questions considering that many of the companies who offer cloud based services such as Google have worked the stored content to their advantage. Google has been known to mine student data through synchronizing features that are set active by default when a student account is created. Apple, on the other hand, claims to have no policy surrounding the mining of student data for personal gain (Ghoshal, 2015). This would make sense, as Apple is in business to sell hardware and software to users while Google’s economic model relies on gathered data which in turn is used to develop targeted marketing and advertising campaigns (Farrington, 2017). How do we work to improve the level of a student’s privacy? Is there an acceptable amount of invasion of privacy that we must absorb in order to take advantage of the free educational tools? These are questions we must face as the issue of privacy has never been more important. As educators, we must work to establish an acceptable line or we must remove ourselves and the students in our schools from access to preserve personal privacy.
Privacy in Social Media
Students share a wide range of information on social media and are often aware of to transparency of a fully public approach to social media. Studies have shown that many teens take an array of steps to restrict and customize their profiles (Madden, 2013). With that said an overwhelming amount of users distrust the privacy and security steps that social media platforms offer. The following information demonstrates the level of distrust.
Farrington, D.(2017, April 24). Apple And The Danger Of Data Miners, noodlemac. Retrieved from http://noodlemac.com/2017/04/apple-and-the-danger-of-data-miners/
Ghoshal, A. (2015, December 2). Google is in trouble for collecting students’ data after promising not to, TNW: The Next Web. Retrieved from https://thenextweb.com/google/2015/12/02/google-is-in-trouble-for-collecting-students-data-after-promising-not-to/#.tnw_uhXoqufL
Madden, M et al.(2013, May 21). Teens, Social Media, and Privacy, Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/05/21/teens-social-media-and-privacy/
Maddox, T. (2015, January 5). Research: 74 percent using or adopting BYOD, ZDNet. Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/article/research-74-percent-using-or-adopting-byod/
Zaharia, A. (2016). 11 Steps to Dramatically Improve your Online Privacy in Less than 1 Hour [Updated], Heimdal Security. Retrieved from https://heimdalsecurity.com/blog/online-privacy-essential-guide/