I cannot deny it. “Private Eyes” by Hall & Oates is one of my all-time favorite songs. The tune is itself is catchy enough, but the lyrics…well, they’re practically prophetic. “Private eyes. They’re watching you. They see your every move.” Daryl Hall and John Oates may have been referring to a love affair, but in this day and age, “Private Eyes” could very well be the theme song for an Edward Snowden documentary.
But is the title true? Is the “private eye” of the internet watching us at all hours of the day, recording our every thought, word and deed?
Some would say yes, most certainly. In Daniel Newman’s article in Forbes magazine, he posits the idea that internet privacy is a thing of the past, a luxury that the general public has relinquished for the privilege of “free” social media, saying “Our Privacy Died When We Grew Obsessed With Free.”
It is true that we really have no idea how much of our own “stuff” is out there, floating around in cyberspace, just waiting to be discovered. In an article published in The Guardian, Ben Goldacre begins with the reminder that “iCloud and Google+ have your intimate photos; Transport for London knows where your travelcard has been; Yahoo holds every email you’ve ever written.” This reminded me of an “incident” from my first few months teaching at AIS-R.
When data gets creepy: the secrets we don’t realise we’re giving away”
I was on my weekly lunch duty in the cafeteria when a student came to me, clearly distraught. “Miss,” she began, “I wanted to tell you that some 10th grade boys are looking at photos of you online…you’re at the beach or something, wearing a bikini.” Wham. Sucker punch to the stomach. Here I am, first year at a new school, trying to establish my reputation as a serious IB teacher…not to mention the fact that we’re living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative countries in the world.
I panicked. Ran to my husband’s classroom where we googled both of our names. And of course, there they were. Photos of us on our honeymoon in Buzios, Brazil – big smiles, both swimming suit-clad. My heart sunk. How could this have happened and why did it have to be my students to make this discovery?!
The answer: a few years back, we decided to document our new lives as overseas teachers and create a blog, supposedly viewable by only invited friends and family. As it turned out, my husband had missed one small step in the privacy set-up, thus explaining how my 10th grade students had access. One easy click of a button solved the problem, but the damage was done. Or at least, our internet innocence was shattered.
This week, I’ll share this story (or parts of it) with my 10th graders as we continue the conversation about our digital footprints. And while we’re at it, maybe I’ll have them double-check their privacy settings.