Online Privacy- Does it Exist?

So, the question this week surrounds the issue of online privacy. Can you protect your identity and yourself while still operating in an internet-filled and gadget-laden world?

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Many of us, especially those of us involved in the CoETaIL program lead technology-heavy lives. We’re linked to dozens of sites professionally and personally, and living internationally makes the internet a key component to staying in touch with our loved ones around the world.

In recent weeks, I’ve Googled myself to see if there’s anything new to learn about myself. There is apparently a Dr. Carrie Zimmer in Wheaton, Illinois and and while I tweet occasionally from @carrie_zimmer that search result comes up after @carriezimmer, from Tucson. She stole MY twitter handle! (chuckle, chuckle) But, thankfully, nothing looks unusual or concerning as of today.

In searching for information about online privacy, I read bits of the Wikipedia article on the topic, which offers some ‘experts’ questioning the existence of this privacy. It’s a valid point to think about and one we should continue to discuss with the students we teach. Recently, I was demonstrating a skill to my 6th grade students. I don’t remember what website I was using, but it was laden with ads about traveling to Paris. One of my students said something about it, and I questioned them as to why they thought those ads were there. I had recently traveled to Paris, and had been conducting plenty of internet searches on the city. We talked about how sites collect your information and target their ads towards your interests. This discussion was short, but it was evident that students lack understanding how their online behaviors may affect them.

My search also lead me to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse website. This is a non-profit consumer organization, providing advocacy and information. It seemed to offer a lot of quality information in regards to protecting your privacy and rights. It was updated in March of this year, so the information is current and up-to-date.

I know I should be more conscientious about what my privacy settings are, what tools and sites I allow to access my information, what apps I use, but I simply haven’t been. However, reading Cult of Mac’s article about the Girls Around Me app should start making all of us be a little more careful. This article demonstrates the inherent dangers in not protecting yourself through privacy settings and common sense. After reading the article today, I searched for this app on my iPhone (I finally gave in and navigated the treacherous waters of phone service in Italy) and was unable to find it. Hopefully that means that the updates on the article are true and that the app has been disabled, for now.

I think the most important thing to remember is that you must be smart in your online life, as you would in your daily activities. As a woman, I wouldn’t walk alone at night in too many places, so why would I check in everywhere I go, state when I leave for a vacation, or share the specific details with everyone in the online world? Using a little bit of common sense goes a long way!

What are you doing to protect yourself online? What are you teaching your students about protecting themselves?

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3 thoughts on “Online Privacy- Does it Exist?

  1. Thank you for linking the PRC. Perhaps I should have read the section about blogging privacy before I started blogging. Likely, I won’t bother reading through much of the PRC deeply or closely because the legal language contained in these sorts of documents is a real turn-off. Instead, I’m going to go with Common Sense and simply imagine that everything that I say and post is out there for the world and that is that! Yet, when I think about our upcoming AUP project, I think teaching my students to understand the school AUP deeply is imperative: because they are kids and they have many mistakes to make before they can rely on Common Sense. It’s fascinating that your students, with the online experience that a sixth grader would have, hadn’t yet realized that “someone” is watching them and sending them ads. Thanks for sharing…

  2. Hi Carrie, I liked your comment about using the same common sense online that I use in my real life. I have not really paid attention to my privacy – online or otherwise actually – I’m not sure why. From time to time I feel like I should batten down the hatches but I never really do. It’s definitely hypocritical of me not to – not to mention just plain dumb. Thanks for the PRC link, too. I’m off to batten down.

  3. Hi Carrie,

    Thank you for your post. I like the way you present things in a simple way, but not in a simplistic manner.

    I am presently going through my course 2 and these topics are well exploited. I am responding to your post and to the comment made by Rachella. I am always telling my daughters to be oh so careful online, but I don’t think I, myself, always practice what I preach. Of course I wouldn’t post a provocative photo of myself or others, but is this enough to be careful online? It is in my nature to be a very careful person and like to believe that I use common sense as a guide-line to my real life, but I have overlooked many things in my Facebook settings. The first thing I did after that class is check my privacy settings (and my daughters’). When you think you have it all covered, some new technology appears and bypasses all your efforts at privacy. It is up to us to make regular check ups, like going to the doctor or dentist. By the way, I think I’m due.

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