This blog has sat here quietly for a few months and I haven’t posted anything new on it. Quite honestly, I’ve thought about deleting it since I thought I was out of things to say.
Then over the past few days all of the news about Prism and other surveillance programs in the US have broke loose in the news. Although it is only beginning to come to light, I will not be surprised in the end to know that the Canadian government was complicit in this work too.
I talked to the students in my class on Friday about this news. I even gave them some time to surf and read online the news they could find about this. They were not impressed. In their words, this makes them feel “creeped out.” But will they change anything? Will they be angry or “creeped out” enough to delete their Facebook account? I’m not sure, but I have my doubts.
This news has a long ways to go before we get any true sense of what has been happening in our societies. There will be hearings and editorials and debates and probably even some protests. The Funny Monkey blog has a post thinking about the implications of this scandal for education. A few questions they are asking:
- “Schools that went all in with iPads – how are you explaining to parents that your 21st Century Learning enrolled their children in 21st Century Surveillance?
- Schools that went all-in with Google Apps or Microsoft EDU – how are you explaining that the benefits of cost savings appear to be offset by passive monitoring of the work within the school?
- Schools that put a lot of time into building your Facebook presence – how will you explain that, by joining the school community on Facebook, you are also throwing your data into NSA servers?”
I think these are valid and valuable questions to be thinking about. As educators, what is our moral and ethical responsibility now that we are gaining some understanding of the extent of the surveillance our tech usage is under? Does this give a whole new meaning about teaching our students internet safety? Does this become instead a time to talk about internet (and societal) freedoms?
There is so much more to think about. Convenience. Balance. Trade offs. The move to cloud computing. Open source software. Open and transparent government. Control of our data.
Danah Boyd is wondering who this information is going to impact and what they are going to do about it:
“I’m glad that my friends are energized and determined to fight harder to make a more just world. And I understand why they’re scared and angry by the potential of what’s being revealed. We’re all easy targets to watch because we’re loudspoken and we extensively use technology to coordinate our change-making efforts. And our networks are full of people who are politically suspect. Particularly activists, hackers, and foreign nationals from problematic nations. In many ways, we’re more the targets of the panopticon than so-called terrorists. Because destabilizing our privilege and belief in justice means that we can be controlled by fear. And so while I suspect that my friends will continue to speak of civil liberties and marginalized peoples, I can’t help but wonder if these kinds of revelations have more implications for activists than for anyone else. And if that’s the case, then what?”
I hope that all of us do some thinking about this and are willing to have a discussion about the implications for us as educators.