Why Privacy is Moot Point

I picked up a copy of the local paper to see my son on the cover…Full name, clearly identified. Did he give permission to have the photograph published? No. Newspapers have a policy that they must print full names of anyone photographed. They’ve been doing it for years.

Our schools meanwhile try desperately to protect students from any chance of identification online. Is it worth the effort? After the recent incident in Quebec, the popularization of youtube combined with the advent of cellphones as video and still cameras, the ease of internet publishing, I’d say we should spend our energies elsewhere. Let’s face it, we all live in a fish bowl.

The fact that newspapers have a degree of credibility that we trust somehow makes us not challenge their breech of privacy. While a local ice rink is a public facility, schools are not, but our paper, like every other paper publishes student photos taken in schools. We don’t care. We all like the publicity. As long as it’s good. We’ve heard for years that any publicity is good publicity.
Like I mentioned in an earlier post about privacy, “this is the reality of our world and we need to get our heads around it.” Scott McNealy of SunMicrosystems claimed,”Privacy is dead”. If this is true it should change what we teach our kids. During my breakfast with Stephen Downes, I remember him saying that nothing he says is off the record. He said his life’s an open book. I know not everyone is comfortable with that but that attitude makes life on the web less stressful than one trying to protect their identity.

We can’t control what others will do with our information and unless we want to spend time fighting legal battles, I think we need to give up the idea that we can protect kids. We can’t.


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  • Ok Dean the world wants to know, did Sam score?

    But seriously, this is a question that truly needs to be discussed with a mind toward where the future is taking us. I had a conversation the other day with a colleague over what it might mean if our institution outsourced its email and calendars to Google. The big concern was over what “if” Google sold or unintentionally or even intentionally accessed our so-called private information.

    There will no doubt be a lively discussion over this in the years to come and it is good that some folks are already beginning to consider its implications.



  • Hi Dean,
    I agree with you completely on this. I have long wondered about why newspapers are treated so differently than online sources. Here’s the one that kills me: a few times a year the paper prints their “all-something” team of high school girls (and boys) or even younger. For the softball players, they tell you where they go to school, what grade they are in, what position they play, and then post a nice head and shoulders photo (not a softball action photo) of the young lady. How hard would it be for the local freak to figure out when and where the next game is going to be played.

    Since I’ve got 25 registered sex offenders
    living within a mile of my house, you can imagine that I would rather have a
    picture of my 10-year old on the Internet rather than in the local paper.

    I’ll still try to protect my kids the best I can (as will we all), but this whole “let’s protect them here” but not over there is ridiculous.

  • Maybe we should be focusing on protecting ourselves from the evils of the newspaper.

    That is a great point, it’s way more likely that the sex offence will occur from within the same town/city than from pervert living thousands of miles away.

  • Dean,
    I completely agree with you on this issue. We spend so much energy worrying about the perpetrator who lives 100 or 1000 of miles away when we should be working at teaching our children to be safe on the net and safe in public. As a father with 4 girls, I’m more worried about the IMing than I am about web pages and pictures. We work at discussing what to do while in a city, how to avoid problems, how to avoid putting yourself in potentially bad situations and the other real life skills. At schools, we should be working on those technilcal literacies that will allow our children to be on the net and stay safe. With the advent of YouTube we need to work at work with students at discussing appropriate and inappropriate online behaviour. I get really confused by people who don’t want anything to do with the internet through the school but will allow their child’s picture in the paper, which goes online. As for information, google your name or use the 411 index – information is everywhere if someone wants it. I also agree with Stephen on his comment. As a principal, anything I say to anyone is for public record. Whatever I do will be interpretted, discussed and, eventually, get back to me. Some of us must realize that with the advent of phonecams, we can be “shot” any time and anywhere. So, we must continue to act accordingly. If you are worried that something you do will embarrass you, then you should probably figure out how to stop it. Really, a snapshot of a teacher sleeping in front of the class may embarrass the teacher but it puts the whole profession on notice. We are a profession. The movie Teachers has always been a favourite of mine because it really speaks about schools/learning and the whole big picture. It’s kind of scary how that movie is still relevant today.
    Does he score?

  • Dean,

    Similar thoughts came to mind last week when the local weekly in the town where I work ran a photo of my 3-year-old son. The photographer who had taken the photo asked me for his name and I quickly gave it. No questions.

    However, when talking to a group of teachers about my family website, they were taken aback by the names and places I showed on the internet. “Don’t you fear for their safety?”

    Of course I do, as does every parent. But we don’t think for a minute about pictures in the newspaper being damaging, when they are far more likely than internet photos to do so.

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