It’s a glasshouse…nothing’s private online!!

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, digitally it can invite a thousand comments which possibly can transform into many embarrassing moments, if freely available online. Despite the intent of just exhibiting it for near and dear ones, any picture can inadvertently land up with a stranger who can hold it for ransom. We all have to wake up to this reality of invasion of privacy online.

As digital citizens, we should be cognizant of these potential risks of uploading pictures and videos on the web. Instead of succumbing to the social pressures of friends, our personal stuff should be undisclosed. Some pondering and premeditation should precede their revelation.

In the context of privacy, benefits do not outweigh loss of face and public humiliation. Privacy policies of websites are in a state of flux. For instance, disturbingly, Facebook owners can sub license the information even after deletion of the account. The saving grace is the new privacy policy changes of Google. They have streamlined +, YouTube, docs and calendar which has personalized our search and indeed made it an “intuitive experience”. Inclusion of the clause of non-disclosure of personal information to third party is a selling factor for Google.

My life is an open book has changed to an ‘open website’ today. Privacy online is subjective. The digital natives, our students are mindful in revealing personal information but they are living these pseudo virtual lives and inculcating wrong digital values in the process. It is incumbent on us to make them aware, that the digital canvas on which they are painting a distorted self is, permanent. It might hamper their prospect of success and achievement in adult life. On the pretext  of having ‘My space’ as a measure of warding off interfering parents, children today are considering the internet to be their private domain without being circumspect and candid. Acknowledging this phenomenon, COPPA Act breaks through the generational barrier and puts things in place. It stipulates for website owners to provide detailed privacy policies, obtain verifiable parental consent and secure confidential information of the kids.

In the virtual world we tend to forget and have blinkered vision and consider things in our control, which is so far away from reality. Consider this, if you cannot feel or touch anything on the web, can you own it? It is in fluid state and your digital data can flow any which way, into many hands. I think that we should follow the same guidelines as we follow in our real life.

I upload some pictures on Facebook and use Picasa album to be extra secure. My privacy settings are intact so much so, that you cannot find me in the search but I can find you. I am okay with not being omniscient on the web because I choose to be like that. For me all the fun and goofy pictures have a distinct place in my hardbound albums or hard drive which I and my friends can view together and cherish the memories. I feel, willingness is a very important factor in online privacy. When there’s doubt of online predation, don’t put it on the web. We have to think before we click that mouse button and understand the repercussion and the ripple effect it will have.

Our students are constantly hooked on the internet using social networks, uploading pictures, videos, playing games and competing online. In the garb of surveys and contests the websites try to trap the kids, which compel us to educate online privacy to them. It is imperative to include parents in the tutelage to reinforce the lessons.

The students must be mindful, alert and make smart choices. They should be able to distinguish between personal and public information, create easy to remember but difficult to hack passwords, read privacy policies of sites they frequently visit. In case of eventuality, inform an adult and know the action to be taken. I am inspired by cyber smart curriculum offered by Common Sense which illuminates us on topics of privacy, digital citizenship and evaluating information on the web. Herein parents are taught about cyber bullying, social networking, gaming, and sexting. FIP (Fair Information Practices Act) also comes to the rescue by empowering people to remove errors online.

Being prescriptive while teaching online privacy wouldn’t serve the purpose of far outreach. The students should be involved, where older students teaching younger ones will take it forward by leaps and bounds. Dramatizing/roleplaying the effects of invasion of privacy online, reading articles and researching the victims will provide abound knowledge to the kids. It will empower them to discern through pervasive tricks of websites.

I came across a website which has games across grade levels to teach online privacy. The rule of thumb should be to be cautious and “Prevention is better than cure”.





One thought on “It’s a glasshouse…nothing’s private online!!

  1. Nandita, I am very convinced with your statement, “I am okay with not being omniscient on the web because I choose to be like that.” I believe an educator may not portray an image of Mr/ Ms. Know it all, all the time. We have to continue to perfect ourselves, and this way students respect us even more. If we are not confident about privacy online and there are fears of information being misused, then it is definitely better to be cautious than repent later. However, I am hopeful, in the future, with giant leap technological upgradation, we will feel more secure, and our personal information will be dealt with in a more responsible manner. A great blog.

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