Privacy in the World of Analytics, with Emphasis on the Higher Education Environment
We all know that there are vast amounts of data being collected on individuals from a great range of perspectives: consumers, students, researchers, and readers will be of particular interest for this discussion. Various technology driven developments such as e-books (including e-textbooks) and online journals, learning management systems and newer, more sophisticated systems such as MOOCs or more general computer-based adaptive learning systems, and even "smart" buildings, classrooms and similar functions all contribute to this scope of this mass of data, and the policies surrounding data capture, aggregation, reuse and retention tend to be highly opaque, even in institutional contexts where there is little excuse for this. Marketing, advertising, intelligence (government and private), law enforcement and a few other sectors have long history of mining this data, usually in secretive ways. What seems to be genuinely new in the past few years is the embrace of "analytics", tools to mine this data often as a basis for action by a range of new players such as authors, teachers, and educational systems. These uses vastly raise the stakes for individuals; the problems now go beyond abstract notions of privacy to actual "targeting" by analytic-driven interventions. In this discussion, I hope to make at least a preliminary survey of what's fundamentally changing in the environment and some of the risks associated with this.