Author: Kate Green 11th March 2016
By Kate Green (kategreen28.org)
On Thursday 10th March, I went to Newcastle University’s business school to attend “International Seminar on Information Sharing”. There were two speakers who were Miriam Lips from New Zealand and Sharon Dawes from the University of Albany, New York. The seminar was outlined to address the implications of data sharing both for public and private consumption. While Miriam mostly focused on New Zealanders’ online behaviours with regards to privacy, Sharon discussed appropriating one and public data for citizen use.
Beginning with Miriam Lips, sharing her findings of her national research into data sharing with regards to privacy, she made reference to existing taxonomies around people’s attitude to privacy. Yet, Lips commented on how these taxonomies look at attitudes more than they do behaviours. I thought that this was an interesting point; to what length will people actively protect their privacy online and what does online privacy even mean? Daniel Solove (2005) suggests that “Privacy is a concept in disarray. Nobody can articulate what it means”.
Taxonomies Lips drew upon were those of Westin (1996) and 6 et al (1998). Westin’s taxonomies outline: fundamentalists (those who do not share any data online); unconcerned (those who freely exchange any information); and, pragmatists (those who balance potential consumer benefits against possible loss of privacy). Whereas 6 et al’s taxonomies draw more on attitudes: fatalists (those who believe little can be done to protect privacy); unconcerned (those who are happy with data collection); fundamentalists (those who are reluctant to share information); and, pragmatists (people who are willing to exchange privacy for services and products).
Dawes then went to talk about open data and its application by the public; she disclosed issues around how data is collected for machines and not for people, making it hard to understand what it means. She also spoke about how the method of data collection differs and so data sets may be full of partial data, or have lots of inaccuracies. This is a point that I would like to share with my colleagues interested in open data sets and open educational resources.
My thoughts on this is that it is really important when we come to asking students to engage online as part of their learning. As Dawes suggested, transparency is a proxy for trust; the more explicit a company or organisation is about their intentions to use data, the more we can trust them; whether we then choose to engage with the service is another matter. As teachers, when we invite students to participate in learning with the digital, I feel that it is part of our duty of care to be transparent in what is happening to this data so that students are in a position of being able to grant informed consent before engagement.
Solove, D. (2006). A Taxonomy of Privacy. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 154(3), p.477.
Westin, A., and Harris Louis & Associates. (1996). Equifax-Harris Consumer Privacy Survey. Tech. rep., Conducted for Equifax Inc. 1,005 adults of the U.S. public.