Private Eyes are Watching You

Hall and Oates sing:

“Private Eyes
They’re watching you
They see your every move”



I’ve been wondering why it has taken me so long to write this blog post about privacy, until it dawned on me the irony of the post. It is the same reason it has taken me so long to start blogging. It’s because I’m a very private person. It is only due to the course requirements that I have started blogging. Privacy is important to me. Unlike a lot of friends, I hardly ever kept a diary or a journal throughout my life. Everything was just stored safely in my mind and memories. The ageing process has revealed that this is not the most reliable storage unit, and perhaps it would’ve been wise to record the anecdotes of my life.

Internet privacy is a kind of privacy and comes with its own characteristics. To truly maximize the full benefits of living in a connected world, I believe a different mindset to privacy needs to be adopted. Like most new things, you need to educate yourself about it so you can make informed choices and decisions and be comfortable with those choices. It’s important to be balanced. I’ve been a user of Facebook for many years now. It has been an important tool in my life to stay connected with family back home and with all my friends living around the world. Every one of my Facebook friends is someone I know personally. We’ve meet in person. A lot of my friends are current or past colleagues from international schools. Every year, when new teachers come to the school or when I move to a new school, my Friends increases. It’s a great way to share the social part of our international life – where we are holidaying, or an awesome night out at a new restaurant that others might want to try, etc.

However, I’m fully aware that many of my colleague-Facebook friends colleagues could potentially one day be in an administration role or be sitting across the table from me at the recruitment fair. I feel totally comfortable that my online Facebook life represents the well rounded, family orientated, travel loving teacher they know in real life. However, I often get a chill when friends post strong personal views on a topic, or photos that I wouldn’t personally share. I don’t have a problem with what they are doing, but the fact is that there is a connection between them and me. I have had a long standing rule about Facebook  –  Don’t accept friends request from students. When I first started using Facebook I developed this rule. I didn’t know why I made this rule. My gut just told me. It just didn’t feel right. As an elementary teacher, I don’t get many friend request from current students. But a couple of years later when they start using social media the requests come in. Do I have a burning desire to know how my students succeed in life? What careers they choose? When they get married and start their own families? YES, but do I want to see all that goes on in their life throughout their teenage years when they are experimenting with life choices – NO. So privacy is a trade off.

If you want to take advantage of the many features of using online resources, there will be some aspects of privacy that will need to be relaxed. Take Flipboard for example. It is a wonderful tool. It has a Privacy Policy. It clearly states what information it collects and how it is used. Flipboard, and other apps like it, are designed to collect information to enhance how it works. It is the customisation piece that we appreciate.

It’s important to teach kids about privacy and help them understand how the internet works. For example, it is useful to teach them why pop up ads appear and how to deal with it.  Another important teaching point is password protection.  However, how much restriction or protection you use can also be determined by country laws, school rules, and family values.  Everyone has their own comfort level.  Julia Agwin documents the measures she takes to protect and teach her children about internet safety, including the use of fake names, rules about the use of google and search engines, encryption and password protection.  Others will have a more measured approach, but the point is to inform yourself and make your own decisions.

To finish, take some time to listen to Juan Enriquez compare our online life with tattoos.  He calls them electronic tattoos and gives 5 lessons to consider when it comes to our electronic tattoos.[youtube][/youtube]

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