That’s Private

We are now officially a Netflix family, and on the weekend I wanted to see what everyone was so excited about. It began badly – I couldn’t even turn the TV on by myself and then had to learn how to work a fourth remote. But then I loved this world of clicking. I flipped through all the options, watched previews, read the ratings, and followed through all of the “Viewers also rented.” It was addictive – fast, and full of information and choices. I felt like I could click the whole afternoon away but I was determined to make a decision and settle down.

But I was intrigued by the option “Suggestions for You.” Seemed a bit creepy that there is data somewhere on my family’s TV viewing habits. Not that I needed confirmation that the kids watch iCarly and Kevin watches Arrested Development… but I didn’t appreciate that Netflix was suggesting these for me.

What gives Netflix the right to collect this data on me? Did we sign a Privacy Statement allowing it to be collected on the Kee family? Can our data be shared with others?

Issues of privacy have been on my agenda these last few weeks. Our lawyer drafted a new CAIS Privacy Policy and updated all of our National Tracking Project documents (they will be sent to participating schools this week). At the National Tracking Project meeting, chaired by Kim Tulloch of Montreal, 20 educators gathered from six provinces to ensure that we are collecting the most strategic data and following proper procedures to protect our students. (Note: we are.) The NTP has been running for five years, and the goal of the meeting was twofold: to share the ways that schools are using the NTP data to improve their programs and make connections with universities; and to evaluate how to improve our use of data.

As an organization, we are completely up-to-date on effective practice in the area of respecting privacy of information we collect. But on the weekend, I realized that as an individual, I should give more thought to the information I give to others.

Saturday’s Globe touched on the serious consequences when students make huge mistakes and then carelessly share their actions on social media. In The sad, painful truth about the Vancouver rioters’ true identities, Gary Mason writes: “A teacher at an area high school told me Friday that students were abuzz over shots posted on Facebook of classmates riding home on the Canada Line holding items obtained during the looting.”

For a long time, we have been focused on helping kids to understand that data is permanent and can be broadly and instantly shared with anyone, including parents, university admissions offices and police. In the case of Vancouver, social networking has been critical in understanding who was responsible for much of the violence that we witnessed. The fact that so many ignored issues of privacy means that we are closer to seeking justice.

But it also raises the serious question for all of us law-abiding citizens – what is the future impact of the many data banks that companies around the world are collecting on us?

On the weekend, I decided that I should watch a bunch of documentaries so that Netflix can suggest something of substance to my family…maybe once I figure out how to turn it on, I can program it to do that.

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