Is Privacy a thing of the Past?

Privacy. It is such a critical topic, yet it is also one that many consumers feel helpless about fixing. Who knows what we buy? What we want? Where we go? Well, as it turns out there a great number of companies, and government agencies, tracking us. And it is not limited to our purchasing behavior. There are a number of companies that can and do track the daily activities of employees also.

Everyone says they want privacy, but many people are unwilling or don’t know how to protect their online privacy. The issue is one that reaches beyond the individual and extends to the larger society. It encompasses devices including home security, smart phones, wearable devices, facial recognition, home speakers, smart TVs, automobiles, maps, social media, and more! And the crazy thing is that we often give permission to be tracked without realizing the implications to our privacy.

This is an issue that extends beyond consumer behavior and can also encompass how companies track employee behavior, beginning when we wake up and check our work email at home, and continuing monitoring activities throughout the day to track physical and online movement. Granted, some of the tracking is useful to protect against espionage and theft, but does it go too far?

Who’s watching who do what?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the issue of privacy in the Internet age. What are students’ concerns?
  2. There are several very compelling interactive graphics and videos that help illustrate this topic. Show these in class and have students take notes on each.
    1. It’s time to panic about privacy: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/10/opinion/internet-data-privacy.html?emc=edit_ct_20190411&nl=technology&nlid=6570397720190411&te=1
    2. Meet ‘Chet.’ His employer knows what time he work up today: https://www.wsj.com/graphics/company-tracking-employees/?mod=djemfoe
    3. Microchips for employees video: https://youtu.be/eX1KNlI40V8
  3. Discussion: Is privacy important? What can be done to protect individuals?
  4. Consider assigning students to research this topic. A number of interesting reports can be found at various sources.

Source: Bentley, E. and Krouse, S. (19 July 2019). Meet ‘Chet.’ His employer knows what time he woke up today. Wall Street Journal; Manjoo, J. (11 April 2019). It’s time to panic about privacy. New York Times.

 

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