"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Friday, May 6, 2011

DATA is a Four Letter Word if You Value Your Privacy.

You may have been reading about the ability of Apple and Google to track their users' location and information:

Apple Inc.'s iPhones and Google Inc.'s Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google, respectively, according to data and documents analyzed by The Wall Street Journal—intensifying concerns over privacy and the widening trade in personal data.

Here is an idea of some of the information that can be tracked:

For almost two years, Alex Pentland at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has tracked 60 families living in campus quarters via sensors and software on their smartphones—recording their movements, relationships, moods, health, calling habits and spending. In this wealth of intimate detail, he is finding patterns of human behavior that could reveal how millions of people interact at home, work and play.

It doesn't stop at Google and Apple, however, your use of Facebook also compromises your privacy. This 2010 article on the founder is quite enlightening on the vanishing idea of individual privacy:

Zuckerberg imagines Facebook as, eventually, a layer underneath almost every electronic device. You’ll turn on your TV, and you’ll see that fourteen of your Facebook friends are watching “Entourage,” and that your parents taped “60 Minutes” for you. You’ll buy a brand-new phone, and you’ll just enter your credentials. All your friends—and perhaps directions to all the places you and they have visited recently—will be right there.

For this plan to work optimally, people have to be willing to give up more and more personal information to Facebook and its partners. Perhaps to accelerate the process, in December, 2009, Facebook made changes to its privacy policies. Unless you wrestled with a set of complicated settings, vastly more of your information—possibly including your name, your gender, your photograph, your list of friends—would be made public by default. The following month, Zuckerberg declared that privacy was an evolving “social norm.”

The backlash came swiftly. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center cried foul. Users revolted, claiming that Facebook had violated the social compact upon which the company is based. What followed was a tug-of-war about what it means to be a private person with a public identity. In the spring, Zuckerberg announced a simplified version of the privacy settings.(emphasis added)

Here is one of the latest articles about Facebook's use of data mining information:

...privacy watchdogs say Facebook's unique ability to mine data and sell advertising based on what its members voluntarily share amounts to electronic eavesdropping on personal updates, posts and messages that many users intended to share only with friends.

"Facebook has perfected a stealth digital surveillance apparatus that tracks, analyzes and then acts on your information, including what you tell your friends," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "Facebook users should be cautious about whether the social networking giant ultimately has their best interests at heart."

You can deduce from these various scenarios with Apple, Google and Facebook, the idea of privacy is becoming quite antiquated. It seems as if the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) push by this administration is for naught: money is not made by creating and producing products; CEOs will become millionaires by selling other people's information. And let's package it by declaring privacy is an "evolving social norm". It's the ultimate nudge to give away our individuality for some company's or government's usage.

We'll be writing this week about this push for your data and your student's data while in public school and quite possibly, private and home school settings as well. Data mining is rampant in private businesses, so I suppose the government decided it might as well get what it could to drive the workforce and manipulate education services based on data.

It's been done in Europe for quite some time and we'll be writing about England's experience with tracking its citizens and what they do with this data. Since we're now copying their health system, the Federal Government probably thought it might as well utilize their data experiences too. It's all connected: health data leads into education data leads into workforce data. Stay tuned.

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