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Data privacy matters for higher education students

Data privacy matters
CAPTION: There is an ongoing struggle for better and faultless data privacy in higher education (PEXELS)

Higher education Student Put a Premium on Data Privacy

Some people may not be too concerned about data privacy. However, recent studies have shown that for most students, who are considered digital natives, data privacy in higher education is a serious issue that must be addressed.

Key Points at a Glance

  • Younger people are concerned about data privacy.

  • YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok are the top five social media platforms Americans aged 18-29 use according to a 2021 study.

  • Students call for better handling of their data either by government or big tech companies.

  • A culture of data privacy in higher education takes time and provides a mindset important for future leaders to have.

With our world today run by technology, people are slowly learning about the importance of information security and data protection, and the consequences of brushing these aside. Most especially during the pandemic, instances of cyber crimes—like scammers resorting to hacking and the likes—have really brought to light the importance of digital literacy and security, and ethical issues in data privacy.

Top 5 Socal media platforms Americans aged 18-29 use

Source: 2021 Pew Research Center survey
Source: 2021 Pew Research Center survey

This is also most concerning in the international higher education sector, when during times like these, educational institutions are transitioning toward e-learning. Creating an effective e-learning system design and making sure it is fool-proof takes months, even years. However, the pandemic has forced schools from around the world to utilize such systems in weeks or face losing students due to the suspension of face-to-face classes on campus.

Students and Data Privacy

Even before the pandemic, students have expressed their concerns about the potential of technology completely invading their privacy. In a 2016 study, students acknowledged the benefits of technology but also its threat.

These students see technology as “something that enables them to engage content in less traditional ways; a set of skills or literacies they are expected to possess in order to succeed; something that excites or empowers them to learn; and potential threat to their privacy.”

However, most youngsters succumb to a “privacy paradox,” where they value their privacy but they can be oblivious about risks most especially when there is a reward waiting for them. 

“Moreover, whenever privacy requires additional effort or comes at the cost of a less smooth user experience, participants are quick to abandon technology that would offer them greater protection, the study stated.

However, this doesn’t change their views on why student privacy is important. In fact, the young feel all the more strongly about data protection.

A 2018 study highlighted that 44 percent of Facebook users ages 18-29 deleted the app and that 64 percent had changed their privacy settings. While for those over 65, only 12 percent of them deleted the app, and only 33 percent edited their privacy settings.

Motivation, Purpose for Data Privacy

Students admitted that they wanted privacy when it comes to their personal lives and details. However, the bigger reason for advocating for data privacy in higher education is so they can avoid any conflict with future employers or academic opportunities. The result? Over 80 percent of students practice self-censorship while posting in social media.

Overall, digital natives are dealing with the fact that social media, while developed and caters to a more younger demographic, is still open for older people like their parents and teachers. Most of them struggle with this reality and therefore, gives them a reason to try out other social media platforms aside from Facebook.

However, in the context of e-learning, students are willing to comply with the collection of data. For them, these make up the better side of ethical issues in data privacy. They understand that if for the purposes of education alone, they can be a bit more open with their data toward institutions. Interestingly enough, students are unaware how their institutions will use the following data.

Additionally, 14 percent of millennials trust the government (19 percent) more with their data than giant tech companies (four percent). In a 2021 survey, 77 percent of young respondents state that social media companies now have “too much power and influence.”

Data Privacy in Higher Education

With today’s modern landscape, data protection should be taught in higher education institutions around the world. Today’s students are the future’s engineers and tech developers, among other important professions, and their attitude toward information security and ethical issues in data privacy will play a significant part in the future of the entire global infrastructure.

Before tackling data privacy as a subject, higher education institutions can start off by effectively communicating how they are treating students’ data and nurturing a culture of transparency within the institution.

“Why is student privacy important?” People might be asking the wrong question. Rather, the reason why data privacy is important to teachers and students lies in the fact that people value their privacy even while harnessing the numerous benefits of technology. Data privacy comes with a price, and higher education students are figuring out how much they are willing to pay.

Data Sources:

Auxier, B. (2021, April 7) Social Media Use in 2021. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021/

Lederman, D. (2019, October 30) Professors’ Slow, Steady Acceptance of Online Learning: A Survey. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/professors-slow-steady-acceptance-online-learning-survey

ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology (2016) Educause. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/-/media/files/library/2016/10/ers1605.pdf?la=en&hash=AC14113E8D1DDD26AEB39856981C1F331D0A249F

Athey, S. (2017, June) The Digital Privacy Paradox: Small Money, Small Costs, Small Talk. National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w23488/w23488.pdf

Perrin, A. (2018, September 5) Americans are changing their relationship with Facebook. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/05/americans-are-changing-their-relationship-with-facebook/

Bornoe, N. (2011) Privacy Management in a Connected World: Students’ Perception of Facebook Privacy Settings. Bornoe. Retrieved from https://www.bornoe.org/papers/CSCW2011-Collaborative-Privacy-Workshop-bornoe.pdf

Beck, J. (2018, June 7) People Are Changing the Way They Use Social Media. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/06/did-cambridge-analytica-actually-change-facebook-users-behavior/562154/

Jones, K. (2020, April 6) “We’re being tracked at all times”: Student perspectives of their privacy in relation to learning analytics in higher education. Journal for the Association of Information Science and Technology. Retrieved from https://asistdl.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/asi.24358

Fleming, J. (2016, June 9) Data Security: Not a Big Concern for Millennials. Gallup. Retrieved from https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/192401/data-security-not-big-concern-millennials.aspx

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