Balancing Privacy and a Public Web Presence

Written by: Andrea Zellner

Primary Source: GradHacker

Zellner privacy picRecently evidence of a massive government surveillance program called PRISM has re-surfaced concerns about individual privacy. Here at Gradhacker, we’ve blogged about the need for a public web presence in grad school, primarily in order to facilitate networking, sharing researching, and job searching. While these discussions have included ideas about what to share and what not to share, they’ve largely ignored (mea culpa!) the privacy discussion. While I don’t have any tips for avoiding government surveillance, there are some privacy considerations that most of us should think about as we splash about in the social stream.

  • Be aware that if it went via the internet, it can be seen by anyone. This is especially true for Twitter and Facebook, but even applies to emails and now Google chat (no more off the record by default!).  Academics sometimes hold controversial opinions, as well. This is fine, but we are aware of how opinions can be taken out of context and perhaps save them for lengthier discussions rather than on twitter. And if you are saying something just plain mean about someone or a group of people, don’t claim you are “just doing research.”
  • Stay up-to-date on privacy settings on all your platforms: I like to follow the social media news so that I can stay up-to-date on the dizzying changes to privacy on my platforms, especially facebook. Luckily, the internet has done most of the heavy lifting for me already. For example, lifehacker.com has an “An Always Up-to-Date Guide to Managing Your Facebook Privacy” which is an excellent place to start. Also check out Mashable’s coverage of social media sites and their extensive “How-to” Section.
  • Always think before you post: It’s easy to get sucked into Twitter fights, so it’s important for me to think before I post. Basically, if I am angry, I try to walk away before posting. After all, as xckd noted, there’s always someone wrong on the internet.

What other suggestions do you have for protecting your privacy while maintaining a public web presence? What questions do you still have? Let us know in the comments by clicking here.

[Picture above by flickr user g4ll4is and used under a creative commons license.]

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Andrea is a PhD student in the Ed Psych/Ed Tech Program at Michigan State University. Her research interests focuses on the impact of digital badges on student motivation in online learning settings. Her additional research interests include teacher integration of technology, and the impact of online and social network settings on motivation and learning. She is a former High School English and Biology teacher and misses it every day.

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