Blog Archives

#fruitbatgate in public on the internet

I’d planned on writing something deep and intellectual this weekend….   but the education blogosphere seems to be dominated by fruitbatgate.

I don’t know the people involved, and even if I did I wouldn’t contribute my opinions.  Inevitably, there are always multiple sides to stories like these, sides that outsiders rarely see.

How on earth did such a sensitive matter that should be internal to an institution get so much coverage on the internet?  Welcome to the 21st century internetworked world. Whether they have the full facts of the case or not, members of the online community will have something to say. Here’s a sample:

And from the lecturer at the centre of the case:

Is it right that the internet has so much coverage of this?

Yes:

Harassment cases always have something to offer in terms of learning about what is and is not acceptable behaviour. If people don’t know they are happening, then the learning opportunity is denied.

Sometimes, internal policies and procedures don’t work so well and it takes an outside airing to tidy them up.

No:

This case has consequences for the careers of the people involved and UCC as an institution. Do they need this unravelling in public?

One party has come out and named himself, the other hasn’t.  There seems to be much online support for the self-named party and more of his side of the story is out there available for public scrutiny.

For good or bad, right or wrong, the story is now out there and it’s traveling. I agree with F Von Prondzynski: UCC need to say something, and say it soon.

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Facebook and the Privacy thing

Facebook is popular, very popular.  It has over 400 active million users, 50% of these users ‘facebook’ at least once every day. That’s impressive.  If Facebook is that huge how come it’s so casual on privacy?

Do those who embrace Facebook not care much about their personal privacy?  Do those behind the scenes at Facebook then exploit this relaxed attitude in order to further link up people socially?  Do Facebook not care about their users’ privacy?  Is there something else accounting for the Facebook approach to personal privacy?

At the moment the jury is out on Open Graph.   In essence, if you’re merrily surfing the net and come across something you like, and that has the thumbs-up “Like” option on it, you can choose to click on this Like button.  This action is fed back to your Facebook page.  It is also kept by the website you visit.  When your Facebook friends visit that site they are notified that you’ve already been there and liked it. Is this a good thing?

Yes, it enhances the social web but is it too much?  Do you want your Facebook friends to know that you went on an Icelandic website to learn the correct pronunciation of Eyjafjallajokull.   Does a wife want to know that her husband ‘likes’ dodgy websites?  Perhaps she does, but that’s not the point.

The point is that this is yet another example of the end user not being given the option to opt in or out.  People are not given the choice to say no if they want to say no. People are not given the choice to say yes if they want to say yes.

To this end, an article by PC World should be compulsory reading for all 400 million people on Facebook. The author goes step-by-step through the required procedure to take back control over your Facebook settings. It shows where to look for those settings that govern your privacy and to turn them off if that is what you want.

Some of the Facebook ventures are interesting.  The Docs application is particularly appealing.  Users can “discover, create and share” MS-type documents.  This has exciting potential for us educators.  If there are privacy concerns will educators rush to explore it?   In some cases, perhaps not.

By not giving people control over how social they want to be online, Facebook could find those masses of users dropping off. Of course, no-one is forcing anyone to ‘like’ anything. No one is forcing anyone to click that button.

Buying your own Facebook privacy

Collective power moves mountains.

If enough people feel strongly about something and are prepared to stand up and say it then results might just ensue.

Facebook users came out in their droves to react against the social networking site’s possessiveness about users personal details. The outcry was enough to cause a u-turn among Facebook mgt. They’ve backed down and reverted to original terms and conditions.

EU Data Protection laws clearly outline that a person has a right to have data about them deleted if it is not serving any purpose e.g the users has shut their account. Also, the data holder can only use the data for stated purposes e.g. facilitating the provision of social networking facilities to subscribers.The US, where Facebook is based, has similar provisions.

The question is – how can Facebook change these terms. After all, arent they law?  I dont claim to be a law expert (because I’m not) but I dont quite understand this. Mark Zuckerberg in his blog seems rather vague. Facebook seem to have something in the pipeline.

On the plus side, the internet penchant for user-involvement means that users have a say. The “Bill of Rights” gives some reassurance. There are 7,228 (as of the time of this post) user comments on the wall. The result – Facebook promises to respect your data privacy.

Crisis averted…… for now………?

Online Teenage Angst

Another one of those the-internet-is-bad-for-our-kids report has just been released.  A review is at the Irish Times.   Here are the stats –

  • “22 per cent of teenagers were victims of some form of bullying online, while 4 per cent said they experienced it frequently”.
  • “More than three quarters said they had not reported the behavior”.
  • “70 per cent of Irish teenagers said they had been warned of the risks of being online”
  • “More than half admitted that they do not always use privacy settings to restrict who can see their personal information”
  • “45 per cent said they would post images and personal information on the internet, and only 11 per cent of teenagers said they never do”
  • “55 per cent of Irish teens have access to the internet without any restrictions from their parents”.

Do you remember being a teen?  It was a time of trying things out, experimenting, finding your identity and figuring out who you are. Todays teens have the internet to help them with all this. If you had the internet when you were a teen, what would you have done with it? Would your parents / guardians have been freaked by the media scare-mongering about the dangers and restricted your access? Would they have encouraged internet exploration in a safe and constructive manner? Are you one of those parents / guardians today?

Parenting is arguably one of the toughest jobs on the job list. The balance of allowing teens freedom of expression, space to grow and experiment but yet reining in more dubious behavior is not easy. How do you react to surveys like this one today – freak and ban internet access (the over-reaction), completely ignore it and continue to allow Tina Teen to continue whatever she gets up to on the internet (the under-reaction). The right balance is different for every parent / child pairing and is not easy to identify.

A feature of the survey is that teens are aware of the dangers online but yet contribute to it by revealing too much of themselves.  Why? That’s the real question. Did the survey ask this question? If education isn’t getting the message across, what will work?  What about the perpetrators of the bullying (I’m taking the teens here, the adult bullies and other abusers is a totally different field)? Who’s taking the teenage bullies to task? How are their parents likely to react to this survey?

One thing is for sure – there are no easy answers!  Life is as tough for the bully as it is for the victim – that’s a truth that far precedes the age of the internet.