All too often the invasion of privacy itself will go unknown. Only by striking at all aspects of the problem can privacy be adequately protected. Chief Justice Rehnquist in Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514, 549 (2001) (Rehnquist, C.J., dissenting).
Privacy is important to college students for several reasons. Privacy is one’s autonomy to manage digitized information after it’s no longer used for it’s initial and primary purpose to ensure its integrity and proper use. Proper data governance and ethics should allow students and graduates to permanently remove and manage their profiles.
Here are 7 reasons why privacy matters to college students:
- Freedom of Expression in Online College Courses
Freedom of expression in online courses would lose its purpose if students have non- controversial, creative, and curious things to deliberate because of fear of how course profiles are used outside its primary use of completing a course online. Privacy is important because it provides students the freedom to consider different perspectives without fear of surveillance or being watched. John Stuart Mill reminds us in his essay On Liberty that humankind is predisposed to fallibility in their opinions. Therefore, society benefits greatly from discussions and open discourse and debate. Mill further argued that all people must have the right to express their opinions and be heard. If the opinion that is false is silenced, then those who would disagree with the view are denied the benefit of seeing the truth of their opinion more clearly. Thus, it’s critical to protect freedom of speech in the digital age for students to have a lively forum of discussion in online course platforms and other web-based applications.
2. Ed-Tech Platforms Should be Designed To Provide Students’ Ownership and Control Over their Information
Control to manage information on online course platforms and their backup servers should be one of the most fundamental rights, intimately interconnected with human dignity. Within that sphere of privacy, students are free to flourish at his/ her will. This freedom to just be, without fear of public scrutiny shapes students’ individual identities during college. The right for individuals to control their student profile data is crucial for them to develop to their full potential. Every word, sentence, and a digital asset that students share in the intimacy of their online course community shouldn’t be recorded forever on a cloud or repurposed. Proper restrictions on the use of the student profile should be outlined in the vendors’ contract in consultation with the students who provide their information.
3. Limit the Power of Censorship of Unpopular Ideas
Information is the wrong hands is a weapon is our network society for exploitation, destruction, and censorship. The more information someone knows about us the more power they have over us. We have seen too often data breaches and unauthorized use of data aimed to reveal intimate details of individuals to exploit it for capital gain, or to censor controversial speech. Privacy is also essential for protecting social boundaries and the flourishing of relationships, where people have the choice to reveal or not reveal themselves in greater detail to everyone they meet.
4. Students Become Drones of Compliance and Mediocrity in Fear
Privacy in online courses is not about secrecy. It’s about protecting individuals’ freedom to create their digital identities and manage who has control and access to their intellectual ideas and opinions. Privacy provides a forum for students to challenge their views, express their creativity, and improve as human beings without pressure to conform. “Pervasive monitoring of every first move or false start will, at the margin, incline choices toward the bland and the mainstream.” Students conform when they fear that the words that they write during college will be used against them in the future. People change throughout their lives. Privacy is also important for second chances. Every word that students write during college may not be a fair representation of who they are in the future.
5. Respect for Students Privacy and Not Having to Justify Their Opinions During College
Our Founding Fathers intentionally and explicitly carved out rights to individual privacy in the fourth amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Privacy means respecting students’ individual freedom to choose if they authorize for their student profile to be stored. “It is disrespectful to ignore that person’s wishes without a compelling reason to do so.” Professors and university administrators are failing to respect students’ reasonable choice to keep their course data private or to manage it after its initial and primary educational purpose. Providing students the right to control their digital fingerprint in online course platforms and servers is about giving students the dignity and freedom to tell their story to build their life and individuality – which is important. The protection of our individual personalities, “defines [humankind’s] essence as a unique and self-determining being.”
6. Manage Reputation and Social Perceptions
Job seekers should not be hindered by their online course profiles. Imagine being denied your dream job in the prime of your career merely because the employer vehemently disagreed with a thought that you expressed in an online post as a sophomore. The only way to prevent this scenario is to allow all students, and graduates to entirely remove their data from platforms and third-party servers after the class concludes.
The future models in data management for digital course requirements should reconcile the developing powers of modern day technology. That is safeguarding sacred American individual rights and liberties. These elements are essential for the opportunities of personal development that students should receive in college courses.
The protection of students’ rights to free speech—in online courses —are paramount for ensuring that New Jersey universities lead the nation in providing students a well-rounded education.