Mary Beth Hertz and the Discussion of Internet Privacy

This week we had the opportunity to hear from guest speaker Mary Beth Hertz.  Hertz is the writer of Digital and Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet: Practical Classroom Applications, which will be put onto my must read list.  Out of the many different topics that Mary Beth discussed with the class a few of the key points resonated with me most was the importance of teaching internet privacy, and sharing with students how the internet tracks their data.

Mary Beth discussed the importance of teaching students about the internet.  For example Mary Beth told us she teaches students what happens with our data, how our data is shared and what a cookie is.  As an instructional technology consultant my job is to support students and teachers with using technology for educational purposes.  The conversation around privacy really made me reflect to think about what I can do to better myself as a educator, in order to provide opportunities for myself to learn more about the privacy issues that are faced by educators and students.

In my journey to learn a little bit more about internet privacy I decided to look into what exactly is an internet cookie.  The following video by Concordia University provides a bit more insight to what a cookie can do and what it is used for. Have you ever wondered why ads for things that you just were looking at are popping up on your Facebook wall? Why are you seeing ads for relevant items on Twitter? The answer is cookies!

The video also provides some ideas as to how to increase our privacy as Canadians browsing the web.  I would strongly encourage you if you have 3 minutes to check this video out.

Mary Beth discussed the United States Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  COPPA requires parental consent for collecting personal information from children under the age of 13.  In Canada, we do not have a law like this.  It appears but is generally unclear on how COPPA affects Canada.  In the situation of YouTube.  Because YouTube is American based, and has American children as viewers, it is requiring all people regardless of location to follow COPPA. Last semester I noticed there was a difference in how I could upload my YouTube videos with a much larger emphasis put on whether or not my video was targeted towards children.  Little did I know, at the time this was due to COPPA being enacted by YouTube.

With the recent hype around smart devices such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa. It makes me question, how is Google using that data to market towards me? And if so how can Google/Amazon decipher children’s data from adults data? How can these smart devices be COPPA compliant?  These are questions that I do not know the answers about but I am interested in as I have these devices in my home.

According to an article by the Huffington Post, the Privacy Commissioner has issued guidelines that are similar to COPPA, but they are not enforceable by Canadian Law.  Further into my research I have found that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) of Canada completed a privacy sweep in 2015.

The OPC found that 62% of websites and apps they examined mentioned that they may disclose personal information to third parties.

From the Globe and Mail article provides some interesting facts from the OPC privacy sweep.

  • 1,494: Total number of apps and websites assessed in the global privacy sweep
  • 172: Popular apps and websites assessed in Canada
  • 62 per cent: Proportion of the websites and apps popular in Canada examined by the OPC that stated they might share users’ personal information with third parties
  • 29 per cent: Proportion of the sites and apps that sought parental consent before collecting children’s information
  • 13 per cent: Proportion of apps and sites that offered parents control over some privacy settings
  • 62 per cent: Websites and apps that included links – such as in ads or notices of contests – that, if clicked, could take kids to other sites with a variety of privacy policies

For those of you who are interested in teaching your students or educating your children on internet privacy, I have also found a variety of resources for teachers provided by the OPC that would be worthwhile to check out for teachers and parents.

Lastly, I believe as educators in Canada I believe as it currently stands we must do a lot more ourselves to educate ourselves on internet privacy.  Personally I need to be more responsible when it comes to signing up for websites, and services.  This begins with reading the privacy policy and the terms of use.  I believe that this is an important action to model for students.  It is clear that Canada needs to do more in protecting the privacy of children navigating the online spaces, and as educators we need to fill this void to educate children about internet privacy.

One thought on “Mary Beth Hertz and the Discussion of Internet Privacy

  1. Thanks for such an in-depth summary and links to other sources! I was also really curious to learn more about cookies so I’m glad you looked into it. That short video was really helpful! I’ll definitely be heading to check over my settings after this comment!

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