What do we mean by privacy?
Every Canadian has the right to the privacy of their personal information and how it is used by governments and health organizations. Privacy and civil freedom are closely related. Libraries, including school libraries, see the protection of individual privacy as part of their core mission. Protecting individual privacy when it comes to what they are reading, and what ideas they are exploring in the library, physical and virtual, protects intellectual freedom and the freedom to read.
Life online presents significant challenges for the protection of privacy. The social nature of the Internet promotes transparency in relationships, and may make it more difficult to draw the line when it comes to privacy. Lack of understanding about how to protect one’s privacy online may make one more vulnerable to bullying and compromise personal safety.
Sophisticated technologies make it possible for information about our online activities to be aggregated. Aggregation of our online transactions can contribute to a more personalized online experience. Online bookstores can make reading suggestions based on past preferences, for example. Similarly this aggregation can invade privacy through the inappropriate sharing of personal information.
What do I, as a teacher, need to know and be able to do?
Understand and manage my personal and professional online activities, in order to protect my personal privacy:
- Differentiate your personal online communication from your professional practice. Use your board email address, for example, when communicating for professional purposes.
- Respect the privacy of colleagues, e.g. understand the privacy implications of using cc and bcc and forwarding messages when using email.
- Review the privacy settings in your online communities. Celebrate what you want as public, protect what you want as private.
Understand and manage my classroom online activities, in order to protect my students’ privacy and to empower students in managing their own privacy:
- Understand what parts of your students’ online work can and should be public and accessible, and what parts should remain in a closed community.
- Know and abide by your school and district policies and guidelines.
- Be familiar with guidelines from professional organizations, like the Ontario College of Teachers and teachers’ federations.
How do I use an inquiry approach to help my students develop knowledge and skills?
What does privacy mean to me? What does privacy mean to my students? What are the similarities and differences? These are some of the essential questions to spark inquiry related to privacy issues online.
- Have students explore and assess their privacy settings in their own social media profiles.
- Have students compare Google search results to investigate how Google customizes search algorithms based on previous search behaviours and your own private information.
- Use provocative topics to initiate small group discussions.
- Have students conduct an original research project similar to one of Pew Internet Research Project’s studies about privacy: Where Teens Seek Online Privacy Advice (2013) or Teens and Mobile Apps Privacy (2013). Students can then compare their results with the Pew Internet research results.
Best on the Web
Social Smarts, Privacy, the Internet and You. A graphic novella from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada