Companies Suck Up Our Digital Information. Are We Adequately Preparing Students?

Create an account!  Sign in with your Amazon account!  Connect your Facebook account…. Twitter account… Google account…

Every day we encounter websites that ask us to create or connect our digital accounts.  It is through these accounts that companies are able to provide “helpful” features, such as personalized discounts, detailed suggestions, and optimized experiences.  Sometimes these new features are very helpful, but there is a trade-off being made in providing this type of data about ourselves.  We lose our privacy, we become more susceptible to identity theft, and we risk losing control over many of aspects of our lives.

60-seconds-on-the-internetThis has me wondering, are we doing enough to educate college students about the potential ramifications of providing all of this data to companies?  Traditionally-aged college students may be especially susceptible to joining new websites, apps and services without understanding the privacy concerns hidden away in the fine print of the Terms of Service.  However, I also doubt that we as educators are that much better at being informed.

Perhaps this is one of the next important areas to highlight as colleges ramp up their “digital education” efforts for students: understanding one’s rights as well as understanding the trade-offs when providing data to companies online.  I would imagine content such as this could be incorporated into a first year experience course, or perhaps through a college’s digital/social media week programming.  Just as many colleges and universities already provide education on managing personal finances and credit, more could be done to help college students increase their digital literacy skills (including skills around online decision-making and data sharing).

What do you think?
Should educators be filling this gap?
Who is responsible and from where should these educational opportunities originate?

If you’re looking to educate yourself or others about data collection, data brokers, and what you can do to be more informed, ProPublica had this excellent article on the topic.  The above  infographic (released in 2015) was created by the folks over at Domo and illustrates the amount of information generated online every minute.

One thought on “Companies Suck Up Our Digital Information. Are We Adequately Preparing Students?

  1. My frustration with this topic lies in the fact that there are often services one cannot enjoy without accepting the terms and conditions or connecting one’s account. Similar to a time of rising gas prices, it makes me wonder how much I’m willing to give up to use the services I love. With upgrades and sacrifices becoming ever more subtle, where do I draw the line?

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