submitted by Jeff Moore, 12.12.2007
In 2003, John Athan of northern New Jersey received an official-looking notice about a class-action lawsuit. He filled out the claim and sent it in. Unfortunately for him, there was no class action lawsuit. Police in Seattle had orchestrated the whole thing. Athan’s saliva on the envelope was enough to tie him to the 1982 rape and murder of a juvenile, even after the envelope made its way through the US Postal Service.
NPR ran a highlight of this story as I drove into work on Wednesday. Athan had been a suspect all along, and apparently got what he deserved. The commentators on NPR, however, ran an extra yard with Athan’s tale. They spoke about the information that we drop all over the place. The DNA you’re leaving behind with that empty soda can in the faculty cafeteria apparently holds an awful lot of private information about you. (Ever see the movie Gattaca?) But who needs DNA? NPR noted that the amount of information you leave behind on the internet is more than enough to facilitate horrendous invasions of your privacy … even if you’re not participating in Facebook, MySpace, etc.
Here, then, are some items to help you explore the issue of online privacy as an educator, parent, and internet user. Many of these resources are suitable for use with students.
· an article from Library Journal titled “Managing Your Online Identity,” which not only discusses the issue but also some services that have cropped up to help you deal with it
· resources (court cases, news items, tips, etc.) on online privacy from the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF)
· an interactive introduction to online privacy issues from the Center for Technology & Democracy (CDT)
· tips from the Federal Trade Commission for protecting the privacy of kids
· an audio presentation from Steve Dembo, of Discovery Education Networks, cautioning that the web gives everyone—strangers, prospective employees, colleges—access to a student’s “new permanent record”
“Oh brave new world …”