Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Ethical Question Revisited

Just before I get started... this is my 500th post! My apologies if it's a little rambly. I was up coding all night and have had minimal sleep. But hey - 500 posts, and around 37,000 hits... that's something to comment on right?

I'm not sure how many of you remember my post on the ethical question. It's come up in a discussion I've been having and it scares me to say that some people (within education) are shrugging their shoulders. And that has me worried about how these decisions are made within politics. That's a leap I know, but bear with me.

If you can't remember what the ethical question is, it goes something along the lines of:
If we're making decisions on someone else's behalf, what sacrifices are we making on their behalf?
Or something... Basically we're entering into this all new changing context and the attitudes within education need to take that changing context into account. What am I talking about?

1:1 devices. If the aim is to have the kids take their devices home - which, given that the ownership structure is changing around this sort of thing i.e. the kids/their family's now own them, is what really should happen - then those questions around privacy become even more important.

I remember being told by probably my first school teacher when I was in Intermediate that she still used a piece of "work" I did as an example. What a horrifying thought! Some drawing (booklet) that I did as a 5 year old being shown to people...

In 10 years time, are those people who've had their privacy traded away for the convenience of certain products going to be happy about having that privacy traded away? The 5 year old me would have been proud. The 11 year old me wanted to burn it.

So how does all of this relate to government? The government have the ability to do the same thing to us. Our privacy can be traded away for convenience. And if the GCSB really is a pawn of the CIA, then we've got even more reason to be concerned. For example, the outcry over prism wasn't so much that people were being spied upon, but rather, that American people were being spied upon.

Let's dial this back for a second. Auckland Transport...

But first, a quick tangent:
I'm having a bit of a moan about the AT Hop cards at the moment. Auckland Transport are doing this great big promotion as they switch from the Snapper Hop card to the AT Hop card. Which means that my transport cards are basically useless. I went to Britomart to get the cards swapped over for one. It turns out they won't swap it, they'll sell one for $5 or I can go online and get them to send me one out for free and then I still need to go to Britomart to get the balance shifted over.

Given that the Snapper Hop cards cost me $10, and I've got 2 of them, it would seem to be to be cheaper for them to:
  • Do a straight swap at Britomart and avoid the postage. The problem with this is they wouldn't get the extra information they're asking for when you go online to get one.
  • Given that I'm wanting to put the credit from both Snapper Hop cards onto a AT Hop card, I'm essentially giving them $20 of value for $5...

Auckland Transport (AT) started using a contact-less payment card for public transport. The problem with this is that they're now able to track an individual's travel. There's some very detailed information that can be collected about where you go, how often etc. Sure, that information is more useful when used for statistical analysis in assessing trends and patterns and the like BUT, given AT's lack of discretion in giving that information, about individuals, to a third party, you've got to be concerned.

You could use cash BUT you have to pay 10-15% more per fare. The Hop information page describes this as a saving! In reality it's them paying you for your information.

Given that to get the new card without having to pay for the new card, you have to enter more information on line than previously needed, is the ethical question being asked?

Is it okay for my travel or anyone else's to be logged?

The GCSB's powers were extended - despite protests and owing to the slimmest of majorities in parliament - involving being able to wire tap you and the like for being a threat to "national economic health". If the GCSB has the information, who is that information being traded with?

The government have rules around where data may be hosted. So it's not a question that hasn't occurred to them. BUT what would the government be willing to trade those rules for?

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