Week 8: My Browser Fingerprint

The importance of data literacy for a 21st century teacher is already taken for granted. However, according to Raffaghelli et al and Sander, the current approach to data literacy is fairly instrumentalist, it focuses on efficient data use in teaching and education management. As an alternative, the authors emphasize ‘the concept of an extended critical big data literacy that places awareness and critical reflection of big data systems at its centre ’(Sander, p.1 ).
Unfortunately, the critical perspective on big data practices has never been part of my educational agenda, although it’s been quite extended. So I decided to start my own development in this direction from visualizing my ‘browser fingerprint’ and looking at myself as ‘a data subject’ (Brown, 2020) leaving traces on the global web. For this purpose, I decided to track my browser history (a simplified version) and start noticing how well the sites I use ‘know me’ through ads and recommended content. I found the tools explored by Ina Sander, like myshadow.org and donottrack-doc.com valuable, they enriched my understanding of how the tracking mechanisms work and what risks they may increase.
My major observations:
–          I use more or less the same online resources every day that ‘know me pretty well’. Roughly, 80% of content and ads I am offered seemed relevant. I know close to nothing about what data they collect, how they are used and how it affects my experience.
–          I was offered to accept cookies only 3 times. Having become a little bit more concerned about my data collection, I didn’t blindly press ‘ok’ like I most probably did in the past.
–          Facebook, WhatsUp and Google, notoriously known for data manipulations, are among my most frequently visited platforms (the Big Five guys). According to donottrack-doc.com, I could use more data-conscious sites as DuckDuck.com or Telegram for the same purposes.
–          Using internet resources uncritically often times, I not only put at risk my own privacy, but also the privacy and data safety of my students, as we work online now.
It’s no secret that teaching as well as learning is becoming more and more technologically intense, which means that developing critical understanding of data has become no less essential than learning how to use a computer for any teacher. Ideally, they should go as ‘one package’ that is part of professional and secondary education agenda.

2 thoughts on “Week 8: My Browser Fingerprint

  1. Great idea for a visualization! Just like a fingerprint, our personal identities can be identified by our digital traces, if only by the experts with the right technologies and competencies to do so!. I agree that a more critical understanding of data is necessary for educators, but also wonder whether this is enough–why should individuals have to carry the burden of developing this knowledge and techniques of self-protection? Is there not a need for more stringent regulatory responses? And I wonder what regulation of data in the specific context of education would look like.

  2. Thanks for directing my thoughts this way. Indeed, adding ‘critical digital literacy’ to professional development programs for teachers seems a very bright idea, but, in the same vein, we could suggest mastering the basics of medicine so that doctors don’t poison them or learning law to make sure their attorneys are doing the right thing. Regulating data use issues on the level of policies is a more sustainable solution. However, it doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon. At this point, the technology is always a few steps ahead of the regulations.

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