Have you looked at your Google or Bing search history recently? You should. When you do, you’ll find a list of all the questions you’ve asked your digital assistant. Maybe you asked who won Super Bowl XX (It was Da Bears.). Maybe you asked where else you’d seen that new actor on Game of Thrones (It was The Exorcist). Or maybe you wanted to learn more about Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump, or radical Islam, or the Klan, or shoe fetishists. Whatever you searched for, it’s worth a look. You’ll see a history of your mental wonderings and wanderings, your curiosities. In a very real sense, what you’ll see is a partial transcript of the operations of your mind.
When we use search engines, whether it’s Google, or Siri, or the voice features on Roku boxes or Samsung TVs, we do so naturally, assuming that our request is confidential and that no one else is listening. Sometimes we’re curious about facts we don’t know, including facts we might be embarrassed to admit we don’t know. Other times we might be curious about an idea, and it might not be an idea that our friends, acquaintances, or co-workers might find interesting or even acceptable. If they knew that we were curious about it, we might not ask the question, for the same reasons of politeness we may not bring up politics or religion or sex in person.
Privacy gives us the ability to ask that question. It gives us the ability to learn about ideas and facts that are disfavored or awkward or taboo. This is the case whether it’s a privacy protection coded into a smartphone app or the professional norms of librarians, lawyers, or psychologists. This special kind of privacy is called “intellectual privacy,” the ability to make sense of the world and our place in it by thinking, reading, and confiding with intimates, protected from the discouraging eye or interference of others. If other people knew our interests, they might not respect us. And if we knew what they were really interested in, we might feel the same. Privacy allows us to think for ourselves, and giving privacy to others grants the same courtesy to them. Privacy promotes respect, and it allows us to respect other people with whom we might disagree violently. And that’s a good thing for several reasons.
By Magee Kloepfler
Recently a teacher came to me looking for a particular book. I informed her it was checked out, but that I would get it to her as soon as it was returned. She asked me for the name and said she would talk to whomever had the book. When I told her I would not share that information with her, she told me I was being “a little ridiculous” as she angrily walked away. At first I was taken aback by her reaction. I took some time to reflect upon the situation and it reaffirmed what many of us already know- our patrons do not fully understand what it means to be a librarian. Parents and people in authority positions sometimes feel they are entitled to this information, but the truth is they are not.
Today everything relating to our students is online. Parents can access grades, lunch accounts, attendance records, and homework assignments all in real time. Access to this information is wonderful and useful, but it has led to what I like to call the “instant gratification generation.” People want information now and don’t want to wait for it. As school librarians, how can we compete with this when it comes to circulation records and keeping information private? This can be especially challenging when you use an integrated library system (ILS) that is shared by a multi-type consortium. Staying informed of the laws and regulations regarding this matter is our first line of defense. (more…)
Choose Privacy Week 2016 – Educational records: More than just grades and detentions in an era of data-driven education
by Kyle Jones
Records define us–partially. They enclose data and information that reveal our past, present, and increasingly our future. But they are never perfect representations of who we are as individuals, nor are they able to capture the richness of our relationships with others. So, we are naturally wary of their contents, who has access to them, and the risks their disclosure creates. Because of these reasons and others, we want those in charge of these identifiable records to treat us fairly by giving us the opportunity to access, review, and request changes to their contents in order to reflect truths about our life, not harmful or misleading falsehoods. In educational contexts, these expectations may not be met as what has traditionally been considered to be an “educational record” takes on new characteristics and import in data-driven schools, colleges, and universities.
Increasingly, primary, secondary, and post-secondary educational institutions are adopting new systems and developing advanced technical infrastructures to capitalize on emerging flows of student data and information. These flows include, among other things, information students disclose willingly to their schools. But they are increasingly capturing the so-called “data exhaust” students create as they interact with information systems of all stripes. Every click, mouse movement, login and logout event, and form submitted creates analyzable data that captures student behaviors; so, too, do the RFID signals emitted by student ID cards and the metadata attached to WiFi access point logs when students connect. Simply put: When students use any type of data-based school system, they create analyzable data; and much of that data is increasingly tied to them as individuals.
The aims of analyzing student data are admirable. Educational actors–from teachers to administrators, advisors to technologists–often argue that data analytics practices will reap actionable information that can improve learning outcomes; they may also uncover new income by identifying poorly performing programs and replacing them with those who use resources more efficiently and effectively. Using data to accomplish these goals is especially important given that schools at all levels are facing tightening budgets and increased public scrutiny. However, we should be concerned about how new ways of documenting student life in very granular, comprehensive ways becomes a part of their educational record, regardless of whether or not the ends seem worthwhile.