Digital Citizenship · Reflection

Can we really expect privacy on the Internet?

After Google-ing myself this week and reflecting on my digital footprint it got me thinking. How much privacy do we really have? And do we really care? After reading a bit more, I think privacy on the Internet does not truly exist unless extreme measures are taken.

Social media is perhaps the number one culprit when it comes to privacy invasion. We tell ourselves that as long as our privacy settings are set “correctly” on Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, etc., that we are controlling who sees our information. Yet that is profoundly untrue. You cannot control whom your friends allow on to their social media accounts. You cannot control whom screenshots one of your posts or pictures and shares it out. While I obviously had thought about this before, this YouTube clip did a good job of reiterating this point and hammering it home. This also does not even address those pictures that were taken but never posted by you. Maybe your friend thinks it’s funny or an ex wants to get back at you. You have no control about the information being posted.

Even for those who do not post items to social media, privacy can still be an issue. Back in 2014, several celebrities were hacked and nude pictures were released. These individuals had every right to think that these pictures on their phone were safe as long as no one got a hold of their phone; however, being connected to the internet allowed for a hacker to gain entry into their private information.

Other culprits that have access to our “private” information are these apps and add-ons that need permission to continue forward. They want your public profile and friends list on Facebook or they want access to your Google account. Most people don’t even look at these anymore as seen with the use of Pokemon Go. This app requested full access to your Google account and most people didn’t even bat an eye! This meant that people at Niantic Labs had access to documents, pictures, emails, etc., all so you could catch Pikachu! This is an issue that is going to be fixed but there was no outrage by users…just calm acceptance that this was normal. That it was okay to grant permission to access your account.

When we talk about digital citizenship at my middle school and it’s brought up that the ads on Amazon, Facebook, etc seem to personalize themselves for you, it’s like a lightbulb goes off for kids. “How does it know?”, they ask. They do not realize that every search is dropping little breadcrumbs for corporations to track your movements. For now, they think it’s cool, but we talk about the issues that this could create later on. Where is the line drawn about the expectation of privacy?

With all of these factors, I think it’s very important to have discussions with our students and our children about the realities of privacy on the Internet. The reality that just because you don’t want something to get posted doesn’t mean that it won’t. And in this day and age, this can have big consequences as you move into college and/or the workforce. People do Google you. What will they find?


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