Book Review, Digital Literacy, Reflections

Under Surveillance: Privacy, Rights, and Those Capitalizing On Us

“I don’t care who sees or reads what I post online. I am an open book — I’ve got nothing to hide.”

Have you heard this before? This is a common response I usually hear when talking with a students, staff, and faculty in higher ed about their personal data and privacy online. Not all take this stance; however, most feel like it is almost too late to take back what is already available and online — this includes their identification, their behaviors, and more. Have we past the point of no personal data return for what we share online?  Are there things we should be thinking about our digital behaviors? Have we thought about how to optimize privacy on these portable computers we bring everywhere — our phones? Is digital privacy possible?

This is a topic I’ve written and spoke about before, as I often feel caught in the privacy paradox in my own digital life. Earlier this year I have began auditing where and how I take up digital real estate. I don’t think giving away our personal data for a “free service” or online account is a fair trade. I have thought more about the fine print in the terms of services for a number of my social media and digital accounts, especially controlling who can collect my data and in “opting out” to control who might use my personal information. This is really important as we see more companies gobble up social media sites and grow their own data collection business based on online information they can find — I’m looking at you Facebook and Google. Whether you share a product on Instagram or tweet about an event, these companies are interested in scooping of this information.

You can go nowhere unseen… We found this ‘camera’ on a window pane in a small staircase to the attic, in the most remote corner of an abandoned hospital.
Flickr image c/o Fabian https://www.flickr.com/photos/snapsi42/3925435964/

I just finished reading Shoshana Zuboff ‘s latest book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, where she defines surveillance capitalism as “a new economic order that claims [private] human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales.” This is directly connected to our digital behaviors, such as our clicks, views, impressions, and even who we are. We share a vast amount of information accessed through our social media accounts, mobile apps, digital platforms, and smart devices — ask your personal digital assistant, Alexa, Siri, and/or Google Home all about it.

In the privacy camp, you can find a number of postsecondary colleagues and learners who are concerned about protecting their personal data and digital information. Similar to others online, most want to know how to maintain digital control of their data and manage their online reputation. Just over 60% of Americans WOULD  LIKE to do more about their privacy; however, their social media use is mostly unchanged since 2018 and I suspect most would value the cost of privacy at $0. Do you think people would pay to protect their information? Who would pay to use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. if it meant more control of who uses their data? I have my doubts that many would actually pay to use apps and social technologies.

Last year, negative impacts of the personal digital life included connectedness overload, trust tensions, personal identity issues, and failing to focus. Privacy, data collection, and surveillance are loaded issues. They are not issues we can tackle on our own. It can be so overwhelming for any one of us to deal with. This needs to be a collective movement for change in society — this might include efforts to push for accountability from technology giants, pushing for regulation, demanding specific privacy standards, and encouraging more of us to change our own behaviors so our actions are not feeding into the business opportunities of surveillance capitalism and data collection. We need to do more than just secure our own data. We need to work on ways to secure all of our personal data and identify standards that block opportunistic actions from technology companies.

Choosing to not use these tools, devices, or platforms is not a viable option to solve this problem. Data security and information collection impacts everyone. Whether you are active on a digital platform or opting out, there are pieces of data and information connected to you in some shape or form. Surveillance and data collection is so ubiquitous that we often take it for granted (Lewis, 2017).  Privacy is less of a paradox, and more of a fact of life, whether we like it or not:

“We can’t buy rooms at the panopticon hotel and then complain about the surveillance.” The internet cliché “You are the product” is wrong, argues @DKThomp. We are neither products nor workers in surveillance capitalism’s quest for data. We are a passive source of raw material—a field to be harvested, or a mountain to be strip-mined. To counter the “nothing to hide” quote that started this post, Zuboff thinks: “If you have nothing to hide, then you are nothing.”

Take a listen to the Crazy/Genius podcast episode to hear more of their conversation: Why Should We Care About Privacy?

Want to hear more about privacy, data and surveillance? Check out these past podcast episodes:

References:

Lewis, R. (2017). Under surveillance: Being watched in modern America. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Zuboff, S. (2019). The age of surveillance capitalism: The fight for a human future at the new frontier of power. New York, NY: PublicAffairs.

#HEdigID, Digital Literacy, Professional Development

#HEdigID Chat no. 13: Living a Purposeful Digital Life

It’s almost impossible to not have any aspect of your life be in the digital. An increasing number of digital objects, environments, and applications often consume our daily lives. Whether it is a text message, calendar notification, online bank transfer, a voice-assisted inquiry, a “like” on social media, or ping from your smartwatch, technology impacts and influences how we live, work, and play. It is not about unplugging or walking away from a device, as the online and offline experience goes beyond a single location or scheduled time. Digital dualism, the belief that online and offline are separate and distinct realms, is no longer feasible in the lives we lead. Also, digital dualism presents a false dichotomy of spaces and real/virtual; in particular, the digital interacts and influences the offline realm, and vice versa (Suler, 2016).

This ubiquitous digital life is seamless as technology is more accessible and just over 50% of the world is now online. Thanks to broader networking abilities and “smarter” mobile/computing devices, our connection and interaction with information, media, and society are constant. Recently, Mozilla released the 2019 Internet Health Report (SPOILER ALERT: The Internet is a bit under the weather.) to identify these issues and needs around:

  • Privacy and security – how safe is it?
  • Openness – is it open?
  • Digital inclusion – who is welcome?
  • Web literacy – who can succeed?
  • Decentralization – who controls it?
  • Participate -10 minutes to a healthier internet (action!)

In listening to the summary of this report on on CBC Spark, I think that Mark Surman, Mozilla‘s executive director, left some room for hope at the end of the interview. It is really up to the collective us, web developers, engineers, government, and society, as what we need to think about broadly for how we engage in the web. On a bright note, Internet health is now a mainstream issue that we are having conversations about to understand what can and needs to be done for the future of the web we want to be a part with Surman’s call to action:

“…how we do design this stuff? We still have the rule of law. We still have governments that we can actually decide where to take this. We’re at that kind of a juncture right now, and we can also govern it stupidly. And so now is the time for engaging in really thoughtful, hard-nosed investigation of what we want the digital society to look like..”

Bringing these issues to higher education, we often direct these concerns towards the support digital literacy among our college/university learners; specifically how they are using technologies, devices, and platforms. We should not assume competence of digital abilities for other campus stakeholders (e.g. staff, faculty, administration, etc.) without understand if/how they are being supported as well. I get that clutter, optimization, and being intentional are pillars of the digital minimalism book by Newport (2019); however, I think his solutions and strategies come from a point of privilege and lack of experience of actually using the digital platforms or social media sites. If you never had an account or you aren’t actively using a social media channel for your personal/professional life, how can you tell others to use these less if it’s a vital tool of their digital life? There is nothing wrong with finding focus and doing deeper work — I fully support that. But, I think there needs to be a balance and compromise with how we navigate the landscape of our evolving personal and professional digital lives. Constant connectivity, emerging technologies, and increasing expectations for life online will not disappear, so we need to figure ways to manage and survive.

Next week (May13-19, 2019), I am teaching this OLC Workshop: Developing your Digital Presence & Taking Control of your Online Identity, which means I will ALSO be facilitating a Higher Ed Digital Identity (#HEdigID) chat next FRIDAY (May 17th) on this topic:  Living a Purposeful Digital Life. Join us for the ALL DAY (slow) Twitter conversation using the hashtag: #HEdigID If you’re not into tweeting, you can still SHARE and RESPOND to the same questions/prompts that I will be adding to this open Google doc soon: http://bit.ly/hedigid13

Here are a few QUESTIONS to get you thinking about HOW and WHERE you live your “best digital live” these days for Friday’s (May 17th) #HEdigID ALL-DAY discussion:

  1. What digital spaces and/or social media platforms are you most “present” on these days? OR Where online do you want to be more active on? How can others connect and engage with #highered professionals (staff, faculty & administrators), in general? List WHERE and WHY you are an active participant digitally these days and living your “best life.”
  2. What online NETWORKS and COMMUNITIES do you often connect with to find other #highered professionals with similar interests/research/work? This could a platform you go to learn, share, or promote your practice/teaching/design/scholarship. SHARE any groups, hashtags, podcasts, blogs, websites, etc. you follow and connect with.
  3. Using digital spaces and social media to share our professional work forces us to differentiate between our ‘private’ and ‘public’ lives. The reality is, this is much more complex as we share our personal and professional lives online. What CHALLENGES or RISKS concern you most about being a ‘public intellectual’ online in #highered?
  4. It’s so easy always be connected — online or to our technologies — so, how do you take time to UNPLUG or DISCONNECT when you need a break? Share how you digitally detox and/or tend to your well-being when you need to escape the digital grind.
  5. What is one piece of ADVICE or a SUGGESTION you want to seek from or offer other #highered professionals related to “living your best digital life” on social media, online, etc.?

Join us for the conversation next week, and in the mean time — tell me:

How do you live your best digital life (with purpose) these days? 

Updated May 19, 2019: Twitter ARCHIVE from chat: #HEdigID Chat Transcript, No. 13: Living a Purposeful Digital Life (05.17.19).

Digital Literacy, Needs Assessment, Networked Practice, privacy, Reflections, technology

My Digital Audit: Where Do I Want to Be Online?

Do you know how much we weave social media platforms and online technology companies into our daily lives? Would it be possible to not live with Google, Facebook, Apple or other technology companies? It’s been something I have been thinking about for a while (like others), and often how much do we test these questions in the wild. If you have not seen the technology blocking experiment conducted by @Gizmodo‘s reporter, Kasmir Hill, you should. Kahsmir tries to take on and live without the technology giants, Amazon, Facebook (which includes owned companies, Whatsapp & Instagram), Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Impressive, right? But is it impossible? Even if you don’t plan to say, “Ciao!,” to these platforms this “Goodbye Big Five” investigation and hands-on reporting will inform you about how much we let these companies invade (most) of our lives, take our money, use our data, and capture our attention.

It is far too easy to sign up or sign on to websites, apps, and platforms with a simple click. No need to read those terms of service agreements. Nah! Also, all you need is my email, mobile phone number or one of those big tech accounts to sign up (e.g. Facebook, Google or Twitter), than why not join? Apps and social media platforms want to make our online user experiences fluid and seamless — which also allows the same platforms and apps to track your digital movement and access your personal data through your connected accounts.

Image c/o Vitor Sá: https://www.flickr.com/photos/virgu/12496426/

For the past 6 years, I have been doing an alright job of tracking of my digital life and auditing where/how I am online. I use a simple spreadsheet to itemize the account name, log in, information, connected accounts, purpose, and more for this digital audit. If interested, here’s a blank spreadsheet you can copy/download to use as you review your apps and online accounts yourself:

Digital/Web Audit TEMPLATE

That being said, it has been a while since I have given it a proper review to include where my personal data lies and maybe the social media apps, online accounts, and forgotten sign-ins that I have not really examined as closely. It is no longer easy to use JustDelete.me and a delete button to remove your data from online accounts. Our existence online is more complex and often woven into one another between the platforms we use and the shifts in these mediums. Maybe I have grown up a bit, but so have these digital platforms, and I’m not so sure they have matured into the tech adults I would like them to be. Here are a few platforms concerns with and why I’m considering closing a few of my own social media spaces, just to name a few:

Beyond policies, practices, and costs, I was trying to determine where I want to “live” online and what it means now that some of these platforms have merged or have experienced new management change. Back in January, I facilitated a workshop about managing your digital identity and being a professional online in higher education. Some of the big questions I challenge participants to reflect about as they consider their online self and where they want to be include:

  1. Why do I want to share my knowledge and expertise? What interests me about “being” online and maybe even connected to my peers?
  2. Where do you want to be online? How do I want others to find and connect with me?
  3. What digital/social platforms would be best for how and what I want to share? Where will I find my professional networks online?

I shared how my own digital presence or “being” online has evolved. Although I used to be in a log of social and digital spaces, that is not the case anymore. A number of platforms have been deactivated (RIP Google Reader & Delicious). While others might have been just a platform to test out or try on. That being said, if something does not resonates with me or find a purpose in my digital life, than I’m okay to say goodbye. So, if any digital space or online place does not “bring you joy” (hat tip to the digital #MarieKondo practice), maybe it’s time to bid farewell. Here is the main focus of my personal digital and data audit:

Where do I want to be online?

Some of my digital self review has been going on for a while, but this year is the year to finish and probably shut down a few social media platforms and online accounts for good. Permanently. It’s time to simplify my streams and declutter my social (media) life. I have started the process and initiated the review of the audit spreadsheet to determine what accounts are active and to itemize what is happening online. Here are a few things I did to start this digital and data audit of me:

  1. Unsubscribe: I used Unroll.me to start the initial clean up and unsubscribe of email lists, advertising, listservs, and duplicate groups/listservs from all my email accounts (personally/professionally).
  2. Revoke/Remove Connections: By logging into your social media platforms, online apps, and digital accounts, you might see you have granted 3rd party access to other applications/users/accounts — remove said things.
  3. Identify the Accounts Where Your Personal Information Lies: Using the various emails, I used Deseat.me to get a list of my accounts and apps that I have signed up for to identify and delete the ones I am not using OR to add these to my digital/web audit spreadsheet to track. This method offers a GDPR message template (thanks, EU GDPR!) to send a template email to the platform administrator to remove yourself from online and social media accounts. This might (and does) require follow up messaging, emails, and sometimes confirmation contracts to remove your information and personal data from certain accounts. It might take some time to get responses and confirmations for deleting yourself from various platforms, communities, or online programs (I know. I am in week 4 of this process.)
  4. Download Your Personal Data: For the accounts and platforms you are thinking about deleting, consider downloading your account data. This might be an archive of activity, posts, etc (e.g. Facebook). Or it could be a files, images, and other items within each account (e.g. Flickr). Part of this download may require you to determine storage elsewhere, such as, in another cloud-based service OR external hard drive (or both). Figure out the how much of data and your use of it, to determine your next steps.
  5. Delete Yourself: Depending on your goals, you may just want to wipe your accounts online to remove all that is there. There are a few guides to get yourself off the grid to get you started. Deseat.me will remove your data and delete some of your accounts, but you will need to visit each account/platform you have to manually complete the deletion process. Check out these suggestions for finding/deleting accounts from the Internet, a list of “how to” delete yourself from social media platforms, and suggestions for deleting (or locking down) your Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The above is just a start — but I thought I’d share what I’ve been working on, ironically, offline and online to audit my digital and data self. Let me know if you have suggestions, resources, or ideas for this review process. I would love to hear how your own audit, review, and reflections are going if you are pondering the same thing.
#AcDigID, #EdDigID, #HEdigID, Social Media, SocioTech

Networked Practice: My Book List

For some of my own research and review, I have been accumulating a variety of books to my reading list for the networked practice study. Some deal with living online, being connected, and even understanding how communities, networks, and groups thrive (or the opposite) in the digital. For the month of January, I have been taking stock and reflecting on my own networked practice. Recently I facilitated an online workshop to support higher education faculty and staff think more about their digital presence and how to manage their own reputations online. Now my current students are thinking about how they will craft their digital identity online and engage with industry leaders, future co-workers, and engage with professionals in their occupational fields. I have enjoyed having conversations to consider what online reputation means, examining how/where our personal data exists, and understanding that “being” online means so much more in 2019.

Creating, crafting, and/or presenting our professional best self digital is quite complicated and complex — just like the individuals behind the profile. As usual, I continue to think about my digital imprint and I have begun to audit where I “live” online. [This process is taking a while, so I’ll share about this audit and review in another post when I am closer to wrapping it up.] as I start to audit my own life on social media platforms and other digital accounts. Of course, I continue to read and review what others are thinking about this process — being networked, living digital, cyber reputations, and online personas — who are connected and linked to peers and communities. Here are a few of the reads and resources I have recommended lately for higher education professionals (e.g. staff, graduate students, faculty, administrators, instructional designers, instructors, early career researchers, etc.):

Beyond this list, I am more than happy to share what I have “READ” and is accumulating on my “Networked Practice” reading list on GoodReads (some reviews included):

I suppose my attention is drawn to the ideas of self-presentation, reputation, and lived lives on social media platforms (and other digital spaces we don’t fully control). At the moment, I’m “CURRENTLY READING” the following books — thanks public and university library!:

My “WANT TO READ” book list is never short, but here are a few that I have either sitting on my home shelf to read (literally) around networked practices. I have no doubt I will add (or have added) to this list, especially as I hope to read these in February.  I welcome your recommendations for living a networked life, being a connected scholar, and being involved digital communities of practice:

What are you reading these days around networked practice? Do you have recommendations for those of us who live a networked, connected professional life? This could be about online personas, digital reputation, networked groups/communities, impacts of social media at work, and more. Share any recommendations you have, and if you’re GoodReads — be sure to connect with me, so I too can be inspired by the books you’re reading.

#HEdigID

#HEdigID Chat No. 12: Taking Control & Managing Your Professional Digital Reputation

Why hello 2019! You just crept up on me. Sorry for the abrupt hello, but I’ve been hiding out, working, and chilling out a bit offline during the holiday break and before the start of the new term. There’s a few things I have been thinking about and more intentions (not resolutions) I have been reflecting on in my digital hiatus (I’ll share more in a blog post soon, I promise).

But I interrupt non-digital solitude for today, I am hosting a Higher Ed Digital Identity (#HEdigID) chat for a workshop I am facilitating with the Online Learning Consortium. Today’s (January, 11 2019 ) #HEdigID Chat topic is: Taking Control & Managing Your Professional Digital Reputation. Join us for the ALL DAY Twitter conversation using the hashtag: #HEdigID

If you’re not tweeting, you can still SHARE and CONTRIBUTE to the same questions/prompts listed in this open Google doc: http://bit.ly/hedigid12

INTRO: A #HEdigID POLL for this Friday’s (Jan. 11th) Twitter Chat: Academics & #highered professionals should NOT make time OR SHOULD make time for #socialmedia – YOU DECIDE! #academia #sachat #HE

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

TWITTER POLL: https://twitter.com/laurapasquini/status/1083067217913229312

  1. What digital spaces and social media platforms are you most “present” on these days, OR do you want to become more active on? Where online can others connect and engage with #highered professionals (staff, faculty & administrators), in general? Share and list where you are most active these days online and why:
  2. What online communities and/or networked spaces do you follow and find others to connect with? This could be to learn from, share knowledge, swap teaching resources, or to disseminate your own scholarship. Feel free to share those you follow on Twitter (people & hashtags), online groups, podcasts, blogs your read, and other networks you engage with digitally for your work in #highered [PLEASE LIST BELOW]
  3. The best way to take control of your digital reputation is to craft it. How do you want to present yourself online? What will you choose to disclose and share about yourself? [e.g. research interests, institutional affiliations, teaching experience, hashtags you follow, fun facts, website, & more!] How do you manage & maintain control of your digital identity? Also, let us know WHO in #highered has helped to model &/or mentor your own digital identity.
  4. As we manage and take control of our digital identity and connect to these online communities, what are some of the BENEFITS and OPPORTUNITIES of being a #networkedscholar or connected #highered professional to share about your work? Tell us what you have gained/learned from being connected.
  5. Using digital spaces and social media to share about our professional work in #highered forces us to differentiate between our ‘private’ and ‘public’ lives. The reality is, this is much more complex as we share online. As we use different platforms and social media channels, some of this gets mixed up and lines are blurred. What CHALLENGES or RISKS concern you most about being a ‘public intellectual’ in #HE?
  6. Final Thoughts (FT): What is one piece of advice that you give #highered professionals OR that you want to know more about for managing your online identity & a digital reputation?

Join the discussion and share your thoughts on professional reputation management online:

  • Answering the questions by tweeting your response with the hashtag: #HEdigID

  • Responding anonymously or with your own name in IN this OPEN Google Doc: http://bit.ly/hedigid12

  • Use any of these questions to draft your own personal reflection and response (e.g. blog post, video, audio, drawing or offline discussion)