Landing : Athabascau University

On privacy and social networking for distance educators

By Allan Manning in the group MDDE610 Group 4 - Fall 2012 October 23, 2012 - 9:59pm Comments (4)

I'm hoping everyone in MDDE610 watched the Privacy on Social Networks lesson by the government of Canada:

As practicioners in the field of education, we have huge influence over the selection of tools/methodologies at our learning institutions. I really want to caution folks around using public social networking tools such as Facebook due to privacy issues. Privacy is a hugely important social right that's swiftly been eroded in the Facebook era.

In the past I have tried to educate friends and acquaintances on Facebook's privacy issues - and I have often confronted with the response of "Why should I care? I have nothing to hide." The implication is that in the first world, privacy is only desirable to people who "have something to hide" - and so long as we live in a just society, that could be reasonable. But we live in neither a just society nor in a just world.

Outside of Canada, people are murdered for being gay, or for being victims of rape, or for infidelity, or because they assisted in exposing drug cartels, etc. Facebook and other corporate-owned social networking sites make all types of personal information and communications infinitely more accessible.

On a note that relates more to everyone here, good, hard-working Canadians find themselves losing out on employment opportunities based on their own social media site posts or even based on postings made by their friends/family. 90% of recruiters and employers visit candidates' social networking sites as part of the screening process. 68% of recruiters hire candidates based on their social networking profiles. Among those candidate hires, 39% were recruited based on their social networking profile because they "gave a positive impression of their personality and organizational fit", and another 33% of hires were recruited because their "profile showed candidate was well-rounded". These grounds, to me, sound charged with potential for discrimination. And while discrimination has always existed, I am loathe to think that anyone in this class would be discriminated against for having simply posted to their friends about a wild night out or bachelor party weekend.  

Even if the world were fair and just in 2012, users of most social networking sites are granting a permanent license to this third party to do whatever they wish with the users' data, including reselling or transferring the data in its entirety. While it may be a non-issue, I think of the gross human rights violations that have taken place even within our lifetimes and I can see how easily such an awful change could come about again, particularly with our nation's growing apathy towards privacy.

In any case, educators, I urge you to do your part and ensure your social networking systems are fully private - rather than privatized. 


  • David,

    You make a great point that I think should be considered by educators. I agree that in a private context, social media can have its place in education. I suppose I am left wondering...if we leave it as private, how is it different than the discussion forums we have been participating in throughout this program? Is it really necessary?


    Kirsten Fantazir October 24, 2012 - 8:51pm

  • Hi Kirsten,

    Good question. I'm in favor of a system like Landing, where the site is owned by the University and beholden to higher ideals. Content can be marked here as explicitly public or private for sharing with the world. As graduate students we can still reap the benefits of social networking on a private site like Landing (though I agree that there's significant overlap with our forums in terms of usefulness, and I'll be looking to see how Landing evolves as a tool over the next few semesters). 

    Most importantly, Landing isn't built to profit from your data. The terms/privacy policy here are, from my perspective, reasonably just and upstanding. 

    Allan Manning October 25, 2012 - 1:17am

  • I would suggest that it is somewhat more flexible than discussion groups because you have access to social bookmarking, filesharing, photosharing, audioposts, blogging, wikis, calendars as well as discussion groups in a single platform. From my perspective the ability for the user to set privacy for each item is valuable because it allows you to target a specific audience and the tagging allows future search. While I have only gotten limited use of the knowledge management functions of the Landing (due to how it is generally used) I have still found it much more useful reference tool than Facebook or Linkedin. 

    Eric von Stackelberg January 31, 2013 - 4:27pm

  • What is truly sad whenever I hear this discussion is that the point that there is no literature stating FB review is a reliable tool for screening candidates never gets raised. HR tools are already noted for very poor relaibility and validity and this is just another way to throw empiracle evidence out the wondow and miss excellent candidates based not on performance but 'feelings'. I woudl love to see a study where teens with silly FB posts are compared to others with no silly FB social pic's and their performance on the job using objective criteria.

    Brenda Quinlan February 28, 2013 - 9:54am

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