Privacy in a world of technology driven personal assistants.

The Amazon Echo and the Google Home were huge Christmas items for many familes. These tech driven personal assistants can change the thermometer in your home, turn on and off lights, bring up music play lists, and even help with homework. (I've asked our Amazon Echo how to spell a word or to look up a fact online and get me the information I needed.) I've also searched for recipes, set alarms, and done hundreds of things that make life just a little simpler. Yet, what is the cost to a potential  loss of privacy

Recently, a story about a little girl who asked Amazon's Echo -triggered by the name Alexa - to buy a doll house and the doll house was ordered made the news. While this was an accident, does it mean we are vulnerable to other hacks where our data is at risk? What makes this even more interesting is when the story was reported on a newscast, many devices were activated. People who heard the broadcast needed to cancel orders of more dollhouses. While this may appear harmless, the easy access to data has many people concerned about privacy and data storage. 

How do these new devices change your expectation of privacy, if at all? And, how do they change how you teach students to protect their data?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.





Hearing about that made me want to go to work for the Echo designers and put in some surprises of my own... some automatic donations to the charities of my choice based on phrases that had nothing to do with that.   

I've cut 'way back on places where I'll 'use Google to log in,'  for starters.   


I want to continue the discussion about digital privacy and draw your attention to an interesting report, The Datafication of Employment: How Surveillance and Capitalism are Shaping Workers' Futures without Their Knowledge. 

From the report: 

For consumers, the digital age presents a devil’s bargain: in exchange for basically unfettered access to our personal data, massive corporations like Amazon, Google, and Facebook give us unprecedented connectivity, convenience, personalization, and innovation. Scholars have exposed the dangers and illusions of this bargain: the corrosion of personal liberty, the accumulation of monopoly power, the threat of digital redlining,1 predatory ad-targeting,2 and the reification of class and racial stratification.3 But less well understood is the way data—its collection, aggregation, and use—is changing the balance of power in the workplace.

I encourage you read the report. What implication does the data gathering have for our students? How do we prepare our students to live in this tech driven world? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Kathy Tracey

I want to circle back to this discussion about our digital privacy and discuss the recent news released by the FBI as it relates to Smart TVs. More than ringing the alarm bells, I believe the warnings are related to a larger issue about our privacy and how much we may be willing to give up for convenience. The FBI reports go on to provide warnings about the use of facial recognition in some instances. At a larger issue is how much data is being collected about what we watch on our devices so advertising can be sold to target markets. 

So, this brings the conversation back to a larger question. What (and how) do you address digital privacy instruction with your adult learners? What do your lessons look like? Are your students concerned about these potential breaches of their privacy, or are we at a point where we accept these concerns as a part of our new realities? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts or concerns. 
Kathy Tracey



This week is CyberSecurity Awareness Month and I want to help draw attention to the blurred lines between our personal and professional devices and our home/work lives. The number of connected devices (Internet of Things) will reach 25 billion by 2021. The Internet of things is the network of physical objects that use technology to connect and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet. (Think about how Siri or Alexa will turn on a light or change temperature settings in a home.) 

This number appears to be in contrast with 63% of individuals respond that how devices caputer data about their lives and behaviors. 

  • How do you determine the risk versus the reward when using the Internet of Things?
  • When you are preparing professional development for teahcers and staff, do you include discussions about security risks and how to keep security protocols in place? 

I'd love to learn more about your PD  and classroom practices. 

Kathy Tracey