Teaching the Value of Privacy in an Age of Pervasive Surveillance Technology

Jeremy Weissman, University of South Carolina


In our age of social media and ever-present recording devices it is increasingly common to hear that privacy is dead, and that we ought to simply adjust to this new reality. In particular, for students today raised in a world inundated with technology, they are often simply unaware of even the value of privacy. Emerging technologies currently in development, such as Google Glass, threaten to erode privacy even further. What often drives resignation in the privacy debate concerning new technology is a zero-sum notion that privacy and a certain class of new technologies are simply incompatible. This, however, is a mistaken notion. Current work being done by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario can serve as a model for how this zero-sum model can be countered. Their Privacy by Design initiative seeks to embed new government surveillance technologies with privacy-protecting mechanisms. Such initiatives give hope that solutions could be developed in order to address privacy concerns related to commercially available technology as well. But unless an immediate effort is made to teach the value of privacy in our curriculum, there will be little will among young people today to reach for solutions that will protect privacy in the development and adoption of new technologies. The result will instead be a new reality where privacy really is vanquished, and the feeling of being constantly monitored is pervasive.