I’ve been trying to write this post about privacy, digital privacy, “privacy as a human right”, the “right to be forgotten”, and social networking,  for awhile now. But it seems every time I sit down to put words on “paper”, a new facet of the discussion is brought to my attention by a blog post, video, news story…

First, we should consider the concept of privacy. Privacy can be described as a state in which one is not observed or disturbed by other people.

For the purpose of this post, we can split this idea into physical-real-world privacy, and digital privacy. And within those two, we can split again into “areas over which I have total control” and “areas over which I have no control, given the life choices I have made”.

Maggie Hos-Mcgrane described this last area well in a recent blog post, Privacy, is it always a good thing?

“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.”

One of the areas you might not be so happy about, and which you can control is described in Facebook’s Latest “You Are The Product” Message: We Will, We Will, Sell You And track your credit card, too by Helen A.S. Popkin (13 Nov 2014)
“…While couched in the language of “friends,” this (Facebook’s recent update of its Privacy Policy) is actually about targeted advertising. If Facebook knows exactly where you are, it knows exactly which advertisements for local establishments to show you…Facebook’s new data policy is where you’ll find the explanation on the information collected when you buy something through the social network. This includes: ‘.. your credit or debit card number and other card information, and other account and authentication information, as well as billing, shipping and contact details.’“

There are choices you can make within Facebook, and there is the choice you can make not to have an account at all with any online social group for which you are the “product and the profit”.  Do you value your privacy to the point of leaving Facebook (or other social networking sites) altogether? By creating a unique password for each of your online accounts? and changing them often? Do you encrypt your email?  Are cookies enabled on your web browser? Read more along this line in a post by John Naughton,  Why the internet has turned us into hypocrites .

The decisions you make take time, consideration, and a concept of where you want to be on the “privacy scale.”

The diagram below, created and shared  for an edcmooc course by Guy Cowley  might help you consider your own privacy.  Although he was not thinking especially about the privacy issue when he created it, but more about technology in learning, I think it’s helpful for our topic, too.  Guy writes “…it is all about us – how we behave and whether we choose to use technology as a facility to help us to improve, or whether we allow ourselves to be seduced and diminished by merely indulging in it…This does not come for free however, it requires effort and thought and a conscious positioning with technology and applications which makes them likely to contribute positively to personal growth…”


Credit: Guy Cowley Used with permission