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.

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 their online selves and being online include:

  1. What do you want to share about your knowledge and expertise?
  2. How do you want others to find and connect with you?
  3. Where do you want to be online? What platforms would be best for the how and what you want to share?

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, Digital Literacy, Reflections

Academic Digital Identity (#AcDigID): Fitter, Happier, More Productive

The start of a new year often brings new resolutions. Updated goals. Ideas for life plans. The start of the new year reminds me of Radiohead’s Fitter Happier [Lyrics] song. Was it just me, or did the semester break and holidays go by too fast for you as well? I’m not completely ready to say hello to 2018 or set my own objectives for work/play. I personally need some more time to for deep reflection on the topic of my digital self (per my end of 2017 year “merry & bright” blog post).

During a holiday road trip, I kept the mood “light” by listening to Bored and Brilliant, reading Under Surveillance [which I promise to write about both books soon] and replaying the OK Computer album. In making a few analog notes and drawings offline, I know I have more work to do on my digital identity and online data. Fortunately, I’ll be able to reflect more about my questions and concerns with participants joining me for the upcoming workshop I’m facilitating next week:  Developing Your Social Media and Digital Presence for Faculty, Researchers, and Scholars (#AcDigID)

A growing number of scholars collaborate and disseminate research, writing, ideas and works via non-traditional spaces online. Many participate in peer learning and sharing networks, and often see support within a number of communities. This workshop was originally created to help faculty and academics craft their online presence and develop a digital identity; however, I hope we dig deeper into what it is to BE online as a networked scholar in 2018. Academics might need an academic persona … and perhaps some do not. This is the reality as our online social networks scale.  All is not as simple and easy in the digital and networked land of academe. So let’s talk about it… together.

#AcDigID Workshop Learning Objectives

  • Evaluate social media and digital platforms for faculty development, connected scholarship, and to enhance research impact.
  • Establish effective strategies for developing an online digital identity within the open, networked community online.
  • Outline the benefits and challenges of open and digital scholarship, specifically with regards to social media and other networked platforms.

This is an asynchronous, week-long online workshop which will begin on a Monday (Jan. 8th) and end on the following Sunday (Jan. 14th).  If you want a look at the #AcDigID workshop agenda, here is the outline for short-course:

  • Why Does Social & Digital Identity Matter in Academia?
    • Getting started, digital identity development, and state of scholars online
  • The Tools of the Digital Academic Trade: Social Media
    • Twitter, hashtags, blogging, podcasting, LinkedIn, and more!
  • Being a Connected and Digital Scholar
    • Digital research impact and influence: ORCID iD, Academia.edu, ResearchGate, etc.
  • Openness in Academia: Benefits & Challenges
    • Working “in the open”  and the tension between benefits & challenges of online.
  • Building Your Social and Digital Presence Online
    • Creating your own space and place for scholarship
  • Developing Your Digital Academic Identity
    • Bonus: Ways to aggregate and showcase your digital academic self

Dates Offered: January 8-14, 2018; Registration Page (to sign up); [Note: The September 2018 version of this OLC  workshop is targeted for professionals, practitioners, & administrators in higher ed.]

As I set up the workshop, I am have been busy reading and reviewing resources. If you are an academic/scholar/researcher/faculty who engages online, consider sharing articles, suggestions, and thoughts with the workshop hashtag:  #AcDigID

Other ways you can connect/contribute to #AcDigID by:

  • ADD TO THE TWITTER LIST: Are you on the“Academics Who Tweet” Twitter list? I would like to get a variety of scholars from all disciplines and areas in higher education. Let me know (comments or directly on Twitter) if YOU or someone else should be added.
  • USE the #AcDigID Workshop HASHTAG this week to introduce yourself, say hello, share resources, or offer advice. I am encouraging learners to follow, read, and use this same hashtag during the week of January 8-14, 2018.
  • TELL YOUR #AcDigID STORY: Interested in coming to talk about your #AcDigID development? How did you become a networked academic? Why do you participate in networked, online communities higher ed? Let me know – happy to have you join during our #AcDigID Online, Synchronous Meeting on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 from 12-1 pm CST. [Drop me a DM on Twitter: @laurapasquini or a comment]
  • PARTICIPATE & TWEET during the #AcDigID Twitter Chat: Join us for the LIVE Twitter chat on Friday, January 12, 2018  from 11 am-12 pm CST.  Using the workshop hashtag, #AcDigID, I will moderate a Q&A 60-minute chat digging into the questions, challenges, and ideas/suggestions for being a networked scholar.

This workshop will help me [and those who join] to reflect on my own digital self-evaluation. I hope to share what I am learning via my research and reading of working/living in a connected society. Being online looks much different in higher ed than it was a decade ago. I think we need to be more critical about our privacy and who has access to our data, plus how often do we consider a balance of life/deep work with the influence of our screens? Join the conversation to reflect and discuss a few ideas for how to best support your work and “live” online as an academic in 2018.

 

Recommended Reads:

Lewis, R. (2017). Under Surveillance: Being Watched in Modern America. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Zomorodi, M. (2017). Bored and Brilliant: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Spacing OutNew York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

 

BreakDrink, Higher Education, Social Media

Have You Read the _____ Privacy (Data) Policy Lately? [@BreakDrink Episode No. 10]

In a past @BreakDrink episode [no. 5], we thank/blame Chris Gilliard (@hypervisible) for bringing awareness to how some higher education institutions are digital redlining learners with technology. For a repeat visit to the podcast, we asked Chris to join Jeff & I to dig into the issues of privacy, access, data, etc. by reviewing the “Privacy Policies” and Terms of Service for the three main hitters for social media we see used in the US: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Here are some links and notes from our conversations and review of said policies from Monday (6/19). Take a listen and be sure to REVIEW+ADJUST YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA SETTINGS NOW! Or, just delete your account. 🙂

Privacy Apps and Search Engines to install to protect your privacy & browsing/tracking online:

Go on. Search one of the above search engines and compare your results for yourself. We DARE you!

Privacy image c/o Flickr User g4ll4is

Net Neutrality & Digital Rights

TOS & Policy 101 on the Social Web

When was the last time you considered reviewing a policy OR the terms of service (TOS) from your favorite social network? With the recent changes to “privacy” on a few of our favorite platforms, we thought it was an apt time to read and review the TOS for all of you. You’re very welcome. As a number of colleagues, learners, and friends in higher ed use (and repurpose) these social spaces for teaching, learning, and research — we wanted to really understand how these technology (not media) companies are thinking about  “Privacy” (or now called “Data” for certain platforms) and the policies around this issue. Here are SOME of the notes from our chat — please visit @BreakDrink Episode no.10 for more at BreakDrink.com

Facebook

Twitter  

LinkedIn  

We might be paranoid, but perhaps we need to consider the data we are sharing and what “true” privacy is when we are online. We thought we’d leave you with a few “light” reads (enjoy):

  1. The Thin Line Between Commercial and Government Surveillance 
  2. How an obscure rule lets law enforcement search any compute
  3. Intel agencies want to make the most controversial foreign surveillance rule permanent

@BreakDrink Podcast ShoutOuts

  • The Show About Race now archived, but a relevant conversation we need to have about race. Always.
  • Missing Richards Simmons – what happens when the fitness guru from the 80’s disappears from teaching his Slimmon’s class
  • Mystery Show (archive): “A podcast where Starlee Kine solves mysteries.”
  • Twice Removed (archive): “A new family history podcast hosted by A.J. Jacobs. They say we’re one big family: this is the show that proves it. You will be filled with delight… or abject horror. You never know. It’s family.”

@BreakDrink Reads & Watches

If you have comments, questions, or feedback about this podcast episode, please feel free to post a comment below, or follow us on the following the “BreakDrink” podcast channels:

We welcome feedback, comments, suggestions, and snark in any of the above digital spaces. If the podcast via iTunes (we still prefer this to the rebranded “Apple Podcasts“), please consider leaving us a rating and review. Thanks!