Is it time to unfriend Facebook?

Is it time to unfriend Facebook?

Re-evaluating our relationship with data

Another data breach under the microscope and more public outcry over the use of our data. This time Facebook is in the firing line. Data mining, data protection, fake news is fast becoming part of the normal adult vocabulary. With this latest scandal in mind, is it time to unfriend Facebook?

Breaches, ethics and the long arm of the law

In 2015 connections were made between Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, and the Trump presidential campaign. Questionable ones. So why all the fuss now? Whistleblowing from former employees has fuelled the speculation that public data has been used to mislead voters via fake news. Now don’t panic, this isn’t a political blog. However, data, public use of data and privacy is political and herein lies an issue. While investigators consider the legalities of this data ‘breach’ how does the general public make sense of this troubling trend? Politics aside, what are the ethical repercussions? Concerns about information manipulation are becoming more frequent. How do we educate and support our students in becoming more data-savvy?

GDPR – a step in the right direction?

If you’re a leader in an EU school, you’ll have heard of the term GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). If you’re responsible for enforcing it – I feel for you! Changes to GDPR aim to address the issues  mentioned earlier:

​The aim of the GDPR is to protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches in an increasingly data-driven world that is vastly different from the time in which the 1995 directive was established.

Key changes to GDPR include:

  • Breach notification
  • Right to access
  • Right to be forgotten
  • Data portability
  • Privacy by design
  • Appointed data protection officers

Schools across Europe must take a critical look at how they use and store data to implement these changes successfully. I for one welcome the dialogue that has started as a result of these changes. Organisations must be accountable when it comes to our privacy despite the challenges of enacting such a policy. Schools should be no different. How damaging could it be for our students if grades, report comments or additional needs assessments were exposed, as a result of a data breach?  Our schools, therefore, need to have robust systems in place to manage these potential issues.

Professional and life-long learning

The revised GDPR aims to protect us. However, it is my opinion that this is a missed opportunity to address the gap in public (and student) understanding of data use and privacy. While school leaders scramble to comply with the enforcement deadline, is there sufficient time to educate staff and students?

What mechanisms has your school put in place to raise awareness of GDPR?
We expect successful professional learning to be an iterative and collaborative process.  However, I have yet to hear of any school using this moment to address concerns surrounding our digital footprint and identity. I wonder if this has to do with the impending deadline for compliance or whether schools don’t have the time or resources to consider this.

Curriculum woes

Looking at the National Curriculum Programme of Study for Computing the lack of specificity both helps and hinders educators. The generic statements allow for interpretation, and while this will enable teachers to adapt content with technological developments, it doesn’t provide much-needed details for exploring issues at a greater depth. The responsibility will, therefore, lie with the teacher. As a key stage 1 and key stage 2 teacher specialising in Computing, I’m frustrated with the lack of accessible resources available to tackle these topics. I’ve concluded that this is just something I have to develop myself or in collaboration with like-minded peers.


Unfriend, unfollow or mute?

We are reaching a new era of information access and use. As adults, we have to be smarter with the data we share willingly and be mindful that it can also be shared surreptitiously. We have to take a more proactive role in being aware of what happens with our information rather than having blind faith in corporations. Ethics may not be high on everyone’s agenda. As educators, we have to move beyond the realms of cyberbullying and e-safety in our curriculum provision. Topics such as data mining, data and digital manipulation should perhaps become more prominent, supported by expert professional learning and advice to enable teachers to do their job well.

As for Facebook, they may have taken a hit during this latest scandal, but social media has our society on a short leash. I may not be ready to click ‘unfriend’ right now, but my relationship status has certainly changed to ‘it’s complicated’.



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