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Digital peeping toms. That phrase gives you the chills, doesn't it? It scary to think that your activity online can be tracked by corporations, the government, hackers, and other nefarious (and seemingly un-nefarious) entities. But with proper education, Internet users can fight back against these digital creeps.
Privacy has always been an important topic in digital literacy. And with the Snowden revelations of NSA spying, education around privacy is in higher demand. Scott Pinkelman, digital literacy innovation specialist at the Free Library of Philadelphia, recently presented on this important topic at the Digital Shift online conference.
One of the most interesting points Scott made was that digital inclusion has drawbacks. This is sort of a hard truth to swallow. But the reality is that technology is complicated, and while there is good that comes from access to it … there are also some negatives.
In a paper called Joining the Surveillance Society, Seeta Peña Gangadharan of the Open Technology Institute explains how digital inclusion might not always be positive:
"As tracking and targeting practices become more widespread, members of underserved communities — typically the poor, communities of color, immigrants, and indigenous groups — may be at greater risk of data-driven discrimination than other Internet users."
This Slate article (also written by Seeta) does a good job of defining what data-driven discrimination is. Essentially, big data is not consistent. And when websites or services rely on big data, certain groups are at a disadvantage.
The study concludes that education about privacy and surveillance needs to be incorporated into digital literacy education. Seeta specifically suggests that educators need to develop expertise to handle questions on this sensitive subject.
Organizations that work with seniors, non-native English speakers, youth, and other new Internet users are in a natural position to do this important digital inclusion work.
At the Free Library of Philadelphia, Scott has found that privacy is very much a concern among his patrons. But at the same time, he's also found that some have incorrect assumptions about how privacy is violated online.
He offered his own take on why online privacy can be such a confusing topic: "Internet services come in many different forms and how they operate isn't always clear." In other words, the Internet isn't a monolithic entity. Different programs and services have different policies on how they use and potentially share your personal information.
Although privacy issues can be a challenge to teach, Scott recommends a few simple steps for digital literacy educators:
Scott recommended a few websites for building curriculum:
Scott's resources for teaching the NSA Scandal:
Here are a few TechSoup and TechSoup for Libraries resources:
What methods do you use to teach privacy and surveillance issues to new Internet users? Share with us in the comments.
Image: Sebastian Wiertz / CC BY
Ginny Mies is a Content Curator at TechSoup Global.
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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