Privacy: protecting yourself

How private is our information really?

Giving up some level of your privacy is almost an unavoidable consequence of using the internet. While it is arguable that internet culture has made us more eager to share, users of the internet should be knowledgeable about what they are sharing, who they are sharing it with and what consequences come as a result of sharing. Some of the most ubiquitous tools that we may use everyday such as: (Google, Facebook, your grocery store’s loyalty card) may have more information about you than you may feel comfortable with. For some tips on protecting your privacy, OpenSchoolsBC has published a fact sheet and UBC’s Digital Tattoo resources you were introduced to in September are a valuable starting point. As a teacher, you also become responsible, to an extent, for the data privacy of your students. Visit this post to learn more.

Anything that you have ever typed into a computer is subject to data mining.

First off, what is data mining? Data mining is the process of organizing large amounts of data to generate new information. While that may sound like irrelevant computer jargon, data mining is at the forefront of privacy issues. With data mining, seemingly arbitrary bits of personal information can be joined together to create a profile about you. Common personal info such as your favourite sport to watch, eating habits and even your typing speed can paint a very general picture of who you are as a person. Any kind of information about you is used to generate a digital profile about you. While it is safe to assume that there are enough privacy safeguards to protect the majority of your online activity, anything could technically be compromised.

For example, a seemingly harmless program you downloaded a year ago could have had malware (bad, evil software) attached to it. Some malware can send information about your computer to its host whenever you are connected to the internet. It is very common for malware to have the capability to infect other programs on your computer, so removing the original harmless program does very little to stop the spread. Furthermore, malware could also be non-intrusive; malware does not necessarily slow down your computer or produce ads. These are the most dangerous because you could have no idea that your computer has been infected.

There is no technological limitation to accessing your data.

How can you protect yourself?

Just don’t upload it

This is the first conversation to have regarding privacy.Anything that you do not enter into the digital world will not be used against you (barring no one else enters it in for you.) Do you need to put this into the digital sphere? Most often times, that answer is yes, but sometimes, extra information is just extra.

Mind your current digital footprint

As a teacher, you may sign up for an account to use a platform with your students. Have you ever considered which username you are using? Is it the same username you’ve been using for the past ten years? If you Googled that username what information would appear? Many people may find it comfortable to separate their private and professional lives. Make note of which pictures, which usernames and even which accounts you are using to communicate professionally and privately. If you do not take these precautionary steps, your students may be able to access your private digital life.

  • you may wish to block your personal phone number when calling students and families
  • use a school district email (this may involve a request through school admin/office); if not available, think about creating a very professional sounding email account you will only use for practicum.
  • it is advisable to avoid ‘friending’ parents and students on social media.
  • consider developing a positive and professional online presence (share resources you’ve created to an open educational repository, a professional blog or a professional twitter or instagram conversation such as #bcedchat #ubcbed2020)

Better password management

Your passwords protect almost everything you wish to keep secure but careless practices have allowed our passwords to be easily breached/stolen. Despite what most people think, having additional numbers, symbols or character cases do not make your password stronger. The inventor of this standard has also publicly denounced it. This comic provides a concise illustration of why that is mathematically the case. Instead of this old standard, better passwords consist of longer phrases that are easy for you to remember. For example, the password: correct horse battery staple, is far more superior to the password: C0rr3cT!.

HTTP Secure

Be very wary of websites that do not use the HTTPS protocol; this is opposed to the less secure HTTP protocol. You can tell which protocol the website is using by looking at the beginning of the website’s address. You should never enter any login information into a website using HTTP – especially on a public Wi-Fi network. This allows anyone on the same network as you to hijack your session and pretend to be you.

Storage handling

Before you decide to utilize a cloud file sharing app or choose to use a platform as a host, you should always ask: How is your data protected? Who does this data belong to once you have uploaded it? Where is the server housed? Utilizing a cloud sharing platform puts you at risk for a privacy violation. There has been numerous data breaches in recent history that have given bad actors access to users’ information. Outside of bad actors, some sites’ privacy policies allow for any data that is uploaded into their sites to belong to them. Furthermore, since the internet is a global network, privacy laws in Canada do not necessarily apply in other countries. It will always be safest to house your data within a Canadian server.

Outside of cloud file sharing platforms, storing your information on your own device requires due care as well. If your device is ever stolen, an unencrypted hard drive is open to access. Encryption ensures that your data can only be accessed if the correct password has been entered. See these guides on how to check if your drives are encrypted: Windows macOS Android iOS(encrypted by default)

Confirm your privacy settings

Many platforms have looser privacy settings on by default. In order to set stronger privacy guards on your information, you must opt-out of these settings. Do you want Google to track the location of your phone everywhere you go? Do you want Facebook to know what your personal opinions are? Do you want your students to see your personal profiles? Take a look at some of these guides to opt-out in platforms you may already have accounts for: Facebook Google Samsung iOS Google Ads

Secure private communication

The same standards that you follow when sharing data should also be followed with communication. After all, any messages, audio or video that is sent is also considered to be data. If you are communicating online through video or audio call, it is recommended to utilize Canadian platforms to keep your data in Canada. You should also be aware that many platforms offer audio or video recording (check if it is done automatically or if it is a manual setting.) Regardless of whether the platform is in Canada or not, the person at the other end of the call should be aware if the platform is recording them.

If you choose to communicate with your students through phone, you may wish to hide your phone number. Note that a student may have blocked unknown phone numbers, so you may wish to inform them that you will be calling from an unknown number at a specific time. Here are guides on how to hide your phone number: Android iOS Landline

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.