UW-Madison iSchool email@example.com The Data Deluge: Privacy in a Connected World, UW-Superior, September 2021 FACEBOOK?! 1 Hi, folks, and my thanks to the series organizers for inviting me. Also huge thanks to Julie and Stephanie for making all the arrangements, I really appreciate it. I’m very honored to have the chance to be here and talk to you folks today! A quick content alert, before I get started. I am likely to mention some human-rights atrocities that Facebook enabled—VERY brie fl y, not graphically, certainly no images, but even so, I don’t want that to be a sudden and terrible shock for anyone. If you need to leave this talk because of that, I completely understand.
in the Data Doubles research project, which is investigating student attitudes toward privacy with respect to learning analytics and particularly library involvement in learning analytics. If you’re interested, you can fi nd out more at datadoubles dot org. This is not a Data Doubles presentation, however. This is just me, and nobody but me is responsible for what I say today.
“privacy” https://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/4592915995/ CC-BY The saying “privacy is dead” has been attributed to Mark Zuckerberg, but I can’t fi nd any credible evidence he actually said it, so I’m not going to say he did. I think it’s fair to say, however, that he and the company he founded have certainly acted on this idea, including trying to make it true. And I hope I don’t have to explain to the librarians here today why privacy is important, but I also know that not all of you are librarians, or coming to this with the importance of privacy baked into your bones the way I have. So really brie fl y, I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this… there are lots of ways to think about and research the importance of privacy to people, and there are a couple-three basic things we’ve learned when we’ve done that. One is that privacy is necessary for us to learn and make progress, as individuals and as societies. As individuals, it’s hard to feel safe enough to make mistakes, which is CRUCIAL to learning, if there’s always somebody looking over our shoulder and maybe judging us. As societies, it’s hard to fi x oppression, including of us by our governments, if there’s no place people can organize and protect one another unobserved. Another thing is that privacy is a powerful harm-reducer. Think about the person who dislikes you most in the world, just really cannot stand you. Now imagine that person, whoever they are, knowing practically everything there is to know about how you live your life. Does that feel like a safe situation to you? It doesn’t to me. Privacy is one defense you have against that person, against all the people or groups who totally wouldn’t mind seeing harm come to us. As I tell my students, “information about people equals power over them.”
lot, “surveillance,” so I want to de fi ne it. Fortunately, it’s massively easier to de fi ne than privacy is! It’s from Latin through French, actually, and the roots just mean “overwatching” or “overseeing.” So surveillance is just systematic observation — or, if you want to put it this way and I do, systematic privacy curtailment. That’s all it is. Okay? Okay, let’s move on.
teach in the Information School down in Madison. Couple-three years back I built a course that’s now called Information Security and Privacy, though that name is about to change AGAIN because I’m working with Dr. Rahul Chatterjee in Computer Science to harmonize his infosec course with this one — he gets most of the techie stu ff , I get most of the human-factors and organizational-behavior stu ff . He talks about network engineering, I talk about social engineering! It’s gonna be great, I’m really excited.
Facebook was just a gift to me teaching that class! Because I could always follow up whatever news stories students brought in with “Facebook’s in trouble again. What is it THIS time?” There’s. Always. Something. So, let me toss this out there to the room. Y’all follow the news, what-all IS Facebook in trouble for? Legal trouble, reputational trouble, whatever, it all counts. (convo starters if needed:) - Rohingya genocide, possibly repeating itself in Tigray, Ethiopia - mob attacks/murders in South Asia - disinfo dissemination; by Russia in the 2016 election, Trump in 2020, COVID - passwords in plain text; third-party data consumers leaving data on open Amazon servers - voter suppression by ad targeting to African-Americans - FTC consent decree violation - emotional contagion “study,” no notice or consent - redlining housing and job ads (even when ad purchasers try not to) - Cambridge Analytica: handing over data w/o user noti fi cation or consent - ad targeting to e.g. anti-Semites and racists - shadow pro fi les of non-users
far from the only thing Facebook gets in trouble for, of course — we could be here all day. And they’re even starting to see consequences, though it’s kind of a nibbled-to-death-by-ducks situation. Still, six million here, half-billion-with-a-b there (that being the total Facebook is looking at in Illinois), eventually it adds up to real money, even for Facebook. And imagine what that kind of money loss would mean to higher ed. Or whatever industry y’all work in.
us wants to be in Facebook’s shoes right now, or possibly indeed ever. Facebook’s shoes are not good shoes! They are bad, bad shoes, y’all! Facebook has completely and utterly SQUANDERED all the goodwill and trust it ever had, and deservedly so. They are DEEP in legal trouble, it’s only gonna get worse for them, and deservedly so. Does anybody trust Facebook-the-company now? Practically nobody trusts Facebook.
Potter, 1625-1654, Le Taureau, 1647, dét., le bouc, La Haye, Mauritshuis, dimanche 21 janvier 2018, 16:53:27.” https://www.flickr.com/photos/renaud-camus/25224890687/ CC-BY, cropped But look. It’s super-easy to make Facebook a scapegoat and feel all superior to Zuckerberg and Sandberg and their gang of dupes and quislings. I mean, let’s not pretend I’m above cheap shots, I picked Facebook to pick on today because it’s just so easy! So yeah, it’s SUPER-easy to say “well, we’re not THEM, so what WE do with people’s data must be okay.”
“We’re not The Zuck, we’re not The Sandberg, we’re higher ed, we’re the good people wearing the good shoes! We’re here to help, we’d NEVER do any of the horrible things The Zuck and The Sandberg have been up to all this time!” I mean, I’m a librarian, right? We librarians are practically INDOCTRINATED into believing we’re the good people wearing the good shoes no matter what—thanks to Fobazi Ettarh, there’s actually a phrase for this belief in librarianship now, it’s “vocational awe.”
is higher ed beyond reproach? Really? Look at this fl yer that was plastered all over the School of Engineering in Madison a couple-three years ago. Wanna be the next Zuckerberg? it proclaims. Sure, I’m totally down for destroying civil societies all over the world, getting millions of people killed via mobbing and disinformation, and bringing Jeremy Bentham’s wildest panopticonnic dreams to life! Sounds great! Now, did the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery really mean harm by this? I think not. Even so, did they cause harm? Yeah. Legitimizing Facebook causes harm. So what I want to happen today, is each and every one of us holding in our souls, sitting with the truth that SOMETIMES WE ARE NOT THE GOOD PEOPLE. I’m not, you’re not, we’re not. The shoes we wear are sometimes bad, folks! (Though, I’m saying, seriously y’all, my shoes are Very Good today, I knew I had to bring my best shoe game to this talk.) So what I’m doing today is using Facebook’s many and awful privacy screwups as examples of how we here in higher ed — really any of us anywhere, I know not everybody here works here — how we can also screw up. And then we can, I hope, avoid it. Because wow, we SO DO NOT want to step into Zuckerberg’s very bad shoes. Make sense? Okay.
that they’re in major trouble for now was feeling a total entitlement to any data they can grab from anyone they could grab it on or from. The Zuck and The Sandberg never even ASK themselves if maybe, just maybe, they were not entitled to know. “We CAN collect these data, therefore it must be okay to!” they said. “Nobody even knows we’re collecting these data, so who’s to object?” says the Facebook terms-of-service agreement, merely by being fi fty gazillion pages of dense legalese. “It’s our business model, so that automatically makes it okay!” Gotta pay back those venture capitalists, that’s clearly the most important thing ever. “We only collect user data to improve our service!” Like, did these people EVER believe the stu ff coming out of their mouths?
was cool. No, I really did, it was so long ago I can’t even remember exactly when I did it, but it was around the time the Facebook Beacon thing broke. I was like, it’s none of Facebook’s business what I buy, I’m done with Facebook. Yet you know something? Facebook still knows stu ff about me. It compiles what are called “shadow pro fi les” on non-users, through web bugs and buying data o ff data brokers. Soooooo… I left Facebook to stop them messing with my privacy, and they still think they’re entitled to do it? And to use that data however they feel like? And I can’t do anything about it because I’m not a Facebook user? What even IS that, other than Facebook seriously, seriously overstepping?
what I want, so Facebook tosses out this incredible constant dumpster fi re of ba ffl egab self-justi fi cation. And what little tech-press reporting comes from inside Facebook indicates that it’s semi-cultish all up in there, if you critique anything at Facebook in even the tiniest way you’re out the dang door. But does that self-justifying, critique-not-allowed atmosphere sound familiar to any of y’all? Have you heard similar streams of empty rationalizations from people in Big Data spaces? Because I kinda have, including in higher ed, and even inside my own profession of librarianship, which is breaking my heart, this is not supposed to be what we’re about! And I just, I NEED all of us to be constantly questioning our entitlement to collect, store, analyze, share, and sell data about people.
ff in higher ed for a lot of reasons I don’t have time to go into. For now, let’s just focus on colleges and universities using web surveillance to gather data on applicants and potential applicants. They’re using pretty much the same privacy-invading techniques as Facebook, y’all! And buying data o ff data brokers to boot. If we’re the good people with the good shoes who think privacy is kind of cool — we maybe shouldn’t be doing this. And it gets worse. If you read these and other discussions of Big Data and surveillance in admissions, you fi nd out that if someone is actively trying not to be tracked, like an applicant has Privacy Badger or uBlock Origin installed in their browser, or they’re on an iPhone, the school assumes that applicant is not interested! It doesn’t point fi nancial aid at them, it doesn’t court them in any way at all. And let’s get this straight: that is real harm to them, caused just because they want to explore on their own without being surveilled. I’m sorry, but explain this to me, how in the WORLD is penalizing people for protecting their own privacy okay?
we wear the good shoes. Sometimes we are NOT ENTITLED to do what we’re thinking about doing, or to know what we want to know. Sometimes stu ff is just plain none of our dang business. I hope that’s obvious, but… it doesn’t seem to be, always.
is part of how we get what social scientists and historians call surveillance creep—the reuse and augmentation of existing data for new and often nefarious purposes that weren’t originally planned for or even imagined. And social scientists say ruefully that surveillance creep is hard, if not impossible, to stop. In other words, you MUST expect any data you collect and store, or that is collected or stored ABOUT you, to be used for purposes you didn’t intend—and quite likely wouldn’t approve of.
Cambridge Analytica, right? Supposedly they and Facebook were collecting silly quiz data because silly quiz data, or maybe because advertising. Ha ha, joke’s on us, Cambridge Analytica was trying to use the data to throw elections! Whether they were successful or not, and that one’s debatable, just the idea that using people’s data to manipulate them at scale is not only possible, but in fact COMMON—this article here is about marketers doing it—this should maybe give us pause about collecting and using data.
we’d NEVER — yeah, okay, I don’t think anybody’s surprised by this one. Cameras cameras everywhere and no apparent limitations to what the footage gets used for. Here’s a story I can tell on Madison — our department library put in electronic swipe-card access so folks in the department can get in after hours. Being the obnoxious Elephant’s Child I am, I asked our librarian where the data goes. Anybody wanna guess? Throw me a guess. Yeah, swipecard data from every swipe-carded space on campus goes straight to campus police. What do they use it for? They… don’t really say much about that.
about wearing the good shoes, the expectation of surveillance creep needs to condition how much data we collect and keep, and how long we keep it. In privacy circles that’s called “data minimization,” and it ought to be central to how we deal with data. Data we don’t have can’t be breached or leaked or abused — including by us.
fuels is sheer carelessness with data. Sure, let’s collect every piece of data we can imagine, throw it all in a single big bucket that’s a Big Red Target for every hacker there is, and spray data indiscriminately at so-called partners, what could possibly go wrong?
into talking about the way Facebook sprays data carelessly everywhere and has gotten caught with absolutely laughable security practices. So I’ll just mention one outrage of many—lots of Facebook’s developer partners are as trustworthy as the average weasel—and now I’ll move on.
every sketchy surveillance out fi t everywhere. Look. Y’all. The more data that’s collected on people, the less meaning P-I-I even has. With enough information about us, we’re all identi fi able, it doesn’t even matter if our names and social-security numbers get taken out. And in Facebook’s world of inescapable surveillance, that information absolutely exists. And I want y’all to notice that I am intentionally combining Facebook with academic research in these headlines here. Researchers have Facebook data! And we know that people can be picked out of the social media data researchers have! The good shoes, academia is not always wearing them. So careless sharing and imperfect security—and no security is perfect, that’s Information Security 101—these are real dangers to all of us.
*FLINCH EXAGGERATEDLY AWAY*) (IF NO: “Oh good. I’m relieved actually.”) I am not welcome in Minnesota library circles. PERSONA NON GRATA, that’s me. And that’s because I gave a conference keynote a few years back where I was pretty harsh on poor security and privacy practices I found among Minnesota libraries. Y’all, I don’t do this public-speaking thing for popularity, okay? And one of the practices I called out was this study at the top from the University of Minnesota that just mashed up tons and tons of fully-identi fi ed data about students, without telling them, without asking their permission… and the way the data are presented in this article and others that have been published out of the data, I’m telling you, I could spend fi fteen minutes on LinkedIn and reidentify some individual students in the study. And I might then be able to learn things about their college career out of the published articles that I’m guessing they don’t want me knowing. That’s just carelessness on the part of those University of Minnesota authors. And it’s not okay at any level. I don’t know who should have caught this, the IRB or the University Librarian or the journal editors or reviewers or whoever, but SOMEBODY should have. And this isn’t even uncommon, my fellow librarians, don’t any of us be feeling smug about our shoes here! My research colleague Kristin Briney did a review of data management practices in library studies like this, and it’s a DISASTER, people. Carelessness is RAMPANT.
Zuck and The Sandberg will do just about ANYTHING to keep pretending they’re entitled to spy on us, so they regularly as a matter of course keep secrets and tell lies about what they’re actually doing. As transparent as lead.
Hill, who is a terri fi c journalist on the privacy and security beat, asked Facebook if they were letting advertisers get at, like, cell phone numbers and email addresses of people who didn’t even give Facebook that information, much less permission to use it. And Facebook said “nope, not us, we’d never”—and then Hill and some researchers proved it, whereupon Facebook fi nally, grudgingly admitted it. Let me say this again: FACEBOOK LIED TO A JOURNALIST ABOUT USER PRIVACY. And that was AFTER trying to keep the whole mess secret. And if you follow news coverage of Facebook at all, you know that this is a PATTERN with them!
tell lies, right? A couple of years ago, this story popped up out of British Columbia. A student at UBC, which uses the learning-management system Canvas that we also use down in Madison, this student made a sunshine-law request to know what data Canvas had on him. And the school’s fi rst decision was to yell NO, YOU CAN’T KNOW THAT. Y’all. Really? How very Facebook of them. It’s a perfectly reasonable question. In the spirit of respecting student inquiry if nothing else, UBC shouldn’t have needed a sunshine-law nudge. They should have been forthcoming in the fi rst place!
version is, I obtained my own library circulation records — the stu ff I checked out, the journal articles I looked at online — I got the list from the University of Wisconsin with a sunshine-law request. Turns out that the U-Dub knows what I’ve been checking out for nearly the last TWENTY YEARS. How did I even know to put in a public-records request? Students in the infosec-and-privacy course I teach dug up the records schedule for this class of data, which I admit I had never seen or thought to look up, and it completely freaked me out. So… anybody here who IS NOT a records manager read University of Wisconsin records schedules for fun? Would you even know where to FIND one? Yeah. In e ff ect, the University of Wisconsin Libraries kept this secret from me. And I’m a little upset about that, you may have guessed. I do not think this is okay. Libraries are not supposed to act like Facebook!
is not how The Good People Wearing The Good Shoes act. These people value transparency. And I want us to pay really close attention to any feelings we have of “oh gosh, we can’t tell the people we’re collecting data on, they’d be furious!” or “oh gosh, we can’t tell them, they Just Wouldn’t Understand!” Because those feelings, those inner concerns, are important. That’s our backbrain telling us that we might be doing something bad and then trying to hide that from the people we’re doing the bad thing to.
whether we were informed about all this surveillance, but whether we consented to it. And so that you know, law scholars and information scientists pretty much say that the usual clickthrough agreements used to get something vaguely resembling consent are broken. They don’t meaningfully inform anybody, nobody reads them because who has time and they’re written for lawyers, not us, and, just—let’s not pretend, those things are not consent in any meaningful way. So it’s not okay to hide behind them, to think that any old kind of data collection or analysis or sharing is okay because the data subjects supposedly consented with a click or two, or even a signature. They didn’t. Not really.
usual extremes. There was the “emotional contagion” study some years ago, where Facebook manipulated people’s newsfeeds to see if it could upset them. Consent, what consent? More recently, Facebook got caught paying teenagers—an economically and intellectually vulnerable population—to install spyware on their phones. Ain’t that great.
good shoes, let’s maybe remember that a lot of our students are teenagers too. Not to mention economically and intellectually vulnerable. If it ain’t okay for Facebook to manufacture their consent, it ain’t okay for us either. Going back to UBC, the consent process for Canvas data collection amounted to a legalese waiver signed when students got their campus ID. Like, in what universe can somebody realistically say “no, I do not consent” at that point? This is forced consent, which isn’t consent at all. It’s also not informed consent, as the student, Bryan Short, notes at the top here. And then Bryan tried to opt out of using Canvas at all to keep it from tracking him, and y’all can probably guess how THAT went, right? There just wasn’t a reasonable, usable alternative for him. So why even bother asking him to consent, when he can’t realistically say no?
informing Consent with no real alternative Consent-by-legalese So what we see a lot at Facebook, even in higher ed — honestly, almost everywhere these days! — is ramming down people’s throats something that looks like consent but actually isn’t. Now, Facebook’s gonna Facebook, but here in higher ed, we’re a trust enterprise. Students have to trust us or we can’t do our jobs. We actually need genuine consent. *read slide*
consent manufacturing is as exploiting asymmetries of power. Those of y’all who have been to college, think back to how YOU felt as a brand-new undergrad. Overwhelmed, small, and scared, if you were anything like me. So somebody from the institution, automatically an authority fi gure, this person comes up to you waving fi fty pages of legalese that amount to “we wanna watch you like a bug under a microscope, is that okay?” Of course you’re not gonna say no, much less “ew, gross, stay out of my life!” You’re feeling overwhelmed, small, and scared and here’s this person with power who wants something from you! It’s not okay to do this and call it consent. It’s legal, yeah, but it’s not okay! It’s a total trust-destroyer!
to cast a wide, unbiased net for who sees their ad, Facebook’s recommender system discriminates by race and gender anyway. Facebook’s ad recommender cannot fi gure out how NOT to be racist and sexist. But for once, this is not an outlier result, this is not Facebook going above and beyond to be horrible. Facebook’s right in line with other Big Data and machine learning and arti fi cial-intelligence and predictive analytics projects here. One reason this happens is that because we live in a biased society, Big Data from and about us intrinsically carries bias. Biased datasets are used to train recommender systems, which produce, surprise! biased results. Over and over and OVER AGAIN we have seen this with search engines and recommender systems and predictive analytics and other surveillance-fueled tools, yet STILL we implement and plan to rely on them. There’s a saying about doing the same thing over and over again while expecting di ff erent results…?
ed is with advising. Let’s let recommender systems route students to courses, let’s let them route students to majors. And we can do it better if we throw lots of data about students, including surveillance data, at this problem, right? Right? Yeah, no. I teach this other course called Code and Power that discusses the demographics of IT industries and IT education. I know EXACTLY what’ll happen if course recommender systems use demographic data to point students at courses and majors. Even fewer people who aren’t white or Asian men will be pointed to most science and engineering courses and majors, that’s what’ll happen, because that’s what we have NOW and the recommender system will see that pattern and reinforce it. That’s what recommender systems are designed to do! See patterns and reinforce them! They don’t know the di ff erence between a good pattern and a pattern of bias! And please don’t tell me that you’ll just leave out demographic info and it’ll be fi ne. It will not be fi ne, because patterns of racism and sexism in science and engineering are easy for algorithms to spot even if you take the speci fi c race and gender variables out. Key phrase is “proxy variable,” look it up, and understand that the data these advising systems rely on will be full of proxy variables for gender and race. Look, computers do not have ethics. They don’t have cultural competency. They don’t even have the consciousness of human society and its issues that would enable them to develop ethics and cultural competency. This makes it a pretty bad idea to rely on them in situations that require ethics and cultural competency. Such as advising.
and white-supremacist organizations target ads to more of the same. They DID NOT CARE that their platforms were being used to incite people to attack and murder other people, from individual murders all the way on up to actual genocide. ACTUAL. GENOCIDE. They don’t care now that the COVID misinformation they’re letting people peddle is helping people die. They don’t care! That sweet, sweet ad money their surveillance and laissez-faire gets them, that’s all Facebook cared about. Until it became an image problem for them. And even now, they care about their image, not the harm. If you watch what they say as opposed to what they actually do, they’re trying to de fl ect responsibility, not cut down on the horri fi c crimes they’ve enabled.
Instagram worsens body-image issues among a huge number of its teenage-girl users. And as a former teenage girl and present-day fat woman, let me just say, this isn’t harmless stu ff , eating disorders are real and they kill people. But of course Facebook didn’t disclose this until forced to, and what are they actually gonna do about it? You tell me.
There is nothing defensible about this. It discriminates against folks with various kinds of disability. It discriminates against darker-skinned folks. It’s wildly, massively invasive. It creates stress to the point of actual trauma. I just. Why. Why did any of us anywhere think this level of privacy invasion was okay. I hope every single lawsuit about exam proctoring goes against higher ed. We deserve to have our shoes shredded over this.
one last lick I want to get in before I suggest a more holistic way of thinking about how to fi x all this. Why did we think automated exam proctoring would work? Why do we think automated advising works? Why do we think surveillance-compiled data tells us anything we couldn’t fi nd out by, I don’t know, talking to people? Why do we think machines are the Delphic Oracle, able to predict anything and everything accurately? Why? And why do we think the use of machines is somehow a Star Trek Neutral Zone, free of questions of ethics and values and morals? Follow somebody on the street with your human body, get arrested for stalking — follow them through their phone and you’re a venture-capitalist unicorn! Why, people? Why?
the last couple years, folks saying louder than a whisper that Facebook’s much-hyped ad targeting, aside from its vile side e ff ects and externalities, isn’t actually very good, or indeed good at all. Advertisers can get similar results from ads that aren’t targeted, they’re saying. And I’m like, why don’t we actually know this? Why hasn’t it been tested? And of course the obvious answer is Facebook doesn’t want anybody looking too closely at its shoes, which we know are bad shoes — but given those incentives, why does anybody believe Facebook’s hype? Why?
We’re a research enterprise, we’re seekers of truth, do WE believe all the analytics and surveillance hype? If we do, why do we? Let me be clear, our belief status has NOTHING to do with rigorous research into and testing of all this muck on our shoes. There mostly hasn’t been rigorous research, and what little actually has trickled out of the hype-riddled AI launches is mostly a bust. This stu ff doesn’t work. IT. DOES. NOT. WORK. So let me get this straight, we’re using our students as guinea pigs for venture capitalists, invading their lives to do it, without asking them of course… and after all that, pretty much none of it works? Wow, everybody. Just wow.
people wearing the good shoes insist on independent, rigorous, well-conducted e ffi cacy research for any technology they implement, especially when they’re potentially or actually invasive of privacy. The good people wearing the good shoes are skeptical of hype, including every single word ever published in Educause Review. Again, I feel that this should be obvious, yet it seems not to be.
cropped So. Ending the rant now. If you’re relieved… honestly, so am I. What we’re left with is, what the heck do we DO? How do we demonstrate—not just say, but DEMONSTRATE—that we care more than Facebook does about the harms that surveillance can do? How should we bake our care into our policies? our procedures? our communication? Because just saying “We take your privacy and security very seriously” doesn’t cut it any more, if it ever did. How many times has Facebook said that? Who believes it any more? From anyone? I hate to say it, but there isn’t as much good guidance out there as I wish there were. A lot of our existing ethics infrastructure, like IRBs, isn’t really set up to handle this new reality either. I mean, fi nd me and ask me, I teach this stu ff , I can often point you to what little there is. But if you’re going to be in this space, you HAVE to lead on ethical issues. I think asking questions is a big part of how we approach this, especially for folks who aren’t running the show where they are. Ask questions, when you’re feeling some Big Data surveillance coming on. “Are we actually entitled to collect or use this data? When should we delete it? How are we going to tell students this is happening? Isn’t this surveillance creep? What harm could come to our students from this? How do we not be Facebook?” We ask, and we keep asking.
librarian named Shea Swauger. Shea goes for an abolition metaphor here, quite consciously and intentionally, and it’s powerful. I recommend the piece unreservedly. But I’m choosing to suggest a slightly di ff erent metaphor today.
it turns out! The University of Wisconsin’s own endowment fund has been pressured to divest too. This particular attempt didn’t succeed — but only because of a weird loophole, and it sure sounds like the adjudicators here wish that loophole didn’t exist. Sometimes that’s how progress happens. Slowly, painfully, and with setbacks. But I want to grab onto this idea of “divestment.” Partly, admittedly, because it’s familiar to us in higher ed, and I think that helps.
because I think divestment is a powerful idea in this context. What would divesting from Facebook look like? What if we bought no advertising from it, minimized or even removed our organizational presence there? And why stop at Facebook? Let’s divest from Google Analytics! From Google altogether! (She says, as this broadcasts on Google-owned YouTube.) What if we divested from the surveillance that’s in our learning-management systems and our online journals and our e- textbook platforms? The parallels between higher education divesting itself of environmentally corrosive fossil fuels and divesting itself of socially corrosive surveillance are… actually kind of striking, I think? For one thing, we can’t divest without admitting where we INvested in the fi rst place, and that it might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but turned out not to be. Admitting mistakes is never easy and never fun, but as I suggested earlier, I think that style of self-re fl ection is healthy and wise. For another — look, we in higher ed like to think of ourselves as leaders and shapers of society. We serious about that? Then it’s time to divest, I think.
available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Please respect licenses on included photos. All clip art from openclipart.org. Because it’s not too late! I wouldn’t be standing here if I thought it was too late. We CAN avoid becoming the dumpster fi re that is Facebook. It will take wisdom and it will take leadership. I hope all y’all will help provide those. Thank you.