I teach about digital surveillance and while I want my students to be able to 'write essays', I would prefer that they got to the end of teaching feeling unsettled and a bit uncomfortable about social media and with the ability to do something about this.
In the past, at the beginning of the term, it was common to receive a list of students alongside their passport photograph. To open up the first session on data mining, I'd ask if anyone was prepared to type their name into Google and see what we'd find together. As social media and digital data have proliferated, I do not feel comfortable with this exercise anymore, though an experiment with my pups names "Luna Maximuff [add extra surnames here]" threw into the ether some interesting insights, so perhaps pet name searches are the way forward.
Recent issues are about data legacy and unused accounts that still contain personal information. A high proportion of my international taught students only have Facebook while they are in the UK. For this group, it is important they understand this information does not 'magically' disappear when they stop using the platform.
Tasks I get my students to do if they feel comfortable:
- deactivate social media accounts for at least one-week;
- do an image search of their name;
- set up a Google alert of their family name;
- review all privacy settings on all devices and all apps (this one takes ages, but is effective);
- report back.
In the future (now) we will be paying digital experts to track down and modify our digital data for us.
Brilliant reading in this area:
Beer, D., 2018. Envisioning the power of data analytics. Information, Communication & Society, 21(3), pp.465-479.
Pötzsch, H., 2018. Archives and identity in the context of social media and algorithmic analytics: Towards an understanding of iArchive and predictive retention. New Media & Society, 20(9), pp.3304-3322.
Cohen, J.E., 2012. What privacy is for. Harv. L. Rev., 126, p.1904.