What am I giving up for Lent? Access to my data

photo of a pancake
Image: Sheila MacNeill (yes they are homemade, but not necessarily by me)

I’m writing this on Shrove Tuesday, the traditional glut of sugar, spice and all things nice like pancakes before the start of Lent. I’m not a particularly religious person, but I respect those who are. However as religious festivals such as Lent are increasingly becoming consumer fests it’s hard to be immune from some diluted aspects Lent. For me, and I suspect most people in my locale, that equates to giving something up. Generally giving up something pretty superficial like chocolate. Lent is really a time for reflection, penance and sacrifice . Giving up my almost daily twix for six weeks I feel doesn’t really quite cut it in that respect, which is why I don’t bother. But, this year I’m going to take a different tack.

Anne-Marie Scott (as ever) has written a really thought provoking post about surveillance in the context of education and educational data, and how students are ‘seen’ by institutions through data. That made me think about how I as a staff member could be ‘seen’ too. I’m still working through some of the research papers highlighted and there is another more serious post that is forming in my head around those issues.

At the end of the post Anne-Marie links to The Glass Room exhibition. I’d never heard of this but on looking – what a fabulous thing that is – and I do hope it does come to Scotland at some point. Following the links in it I came across the data detox site. Again something I hadn’t come across before, but I wish I had. It would have been so useful to share with students the other week when I was doing some sessions around online identity – c’est la vie. Anyway as I was munching through a pancake, I thought that what I would do this year is kind of a reverse type of Lent. I’m going to give up giving away my all my data.

Thanks to the data detox site I’ve installed privacy badger and HTTPS Everywhere to stop my complacency around allow browsers to collect and use my data to drive assumptions about me to advertisers. I’ve updated all my google settings and now need to move on to apps on my phone, and social media. The later will be difficult. I’m not having a total digital detox and I don’t want to not be on social media but I need to just double check all my settings.

Now, I doubt that this is going to have any impact on Google ads revenue, but it is certainly giving me a well need impetus to get my act together on where, what and how I share my data. On my own devices I feel a bit more in control, and hopefully for longer than the six weeks of Lent.

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