by Rigele Abilock and Debbie Abilock
The girl swallows the pill. Millions of tiny magnetic nanoparticles disperse into her bloodstream. They are her trusty scouts, tracking her body for early signs of cancer, heart disease, and other conditions. Her wearable wristband magnetically recalls the nanoparticles to her wrist veins for instant skin read-outs. She is constantly monitored by physicians and healthcare companies. In return, she receives the best chances of a long, healthy life.
This futuristic narrative could sit on your library shelf alongside Michael Crichton’s nanotechnology thriller, Prey. However, it belongs in non-fiction. Over one hundred scientists at Google’s life sciences spinout, Verily, are hard at work today on these health nanoparticles and associated wearable monitor. And it’s all in the name of human health…and big data…and profit.
Reconciling big data opportunities with healthcare privacy concerns is the same dilemma we face in education. Instructors want to support personalized learning, instruction, and classroom management with online offerings – but the data of underage patrons hangs in the balance. Just as health profiling based on longitudinal data collection raises red flags, so does educational performance profiling. Ethically and practically, youth will always be our Achilles Heel.
by Annalisa Keuler
Our job as educators is to facilitate student learning, and each year more of this learning is happening in an online environment. We ask students to log in to websites, download apps, and research online. These apps and websites may be used with the best of intentions, but many of them that require students to log in employ an information acquisition technique known as “data mining” and will sell this information to a third party. We must ask ourselves if we are doing everything in our power to secure the information that is transmitted and received. How do we protect students’ data and make sure that this data is confidential and secure?
by Anna Lauren Hoffman
Two Saturdays ago, I (and pretty much everyone else on the Internet) sat in awe watching Lemonade, Beyoncé’s epic visual album. At one point during it, Malcolm X’s voice declares: “the most disrespected woman in America is the black woman.” Coupled with her recent video for “Formation,” the grand theme of Beyoncé’s work is made explicit in those words—Lemonade is a powerful assertion of Black women’s self-respect in the face of brutal indifference.
It is through Yoncé-tinted glasses that I consider this year’s Choose Privacy Week theme: “Respect Me, Respect My Privacy.”
Deceptively simple, the theme communicates some powerful ideas, like that respecting someone’s privacy is integral to respecting someone generally. But we should be cautious of casting the issue of privacy only in “me”-centered terms. Though we all deserve privacy and respect, not all of us have equally meaningful access to these important goods.
Underscoring Beyoncé’s (and certainly Malcolm X’s) claims is an understanding that institutionalized social and political injustices represent a kind of disrespect—one that shapes not only how marginalized groups are perceived by others, but also how they are able to perceive themselves. In other words, injustice also shapes individuals’ abilities to conceive of and exercise self-respect.
By spotlighting specific marginalized populations, the connections between privacy and self-respect become obvious. Affording others opportunities, means, and space for expression and meaningful reflection—whether privately or in public—is one way we support others in their pursuit of self-respect. Guarantees against undue intrusion or forced disclosure of private information signal to individuals that their identities, aspirations, and goals are valuable and worthy of respect.