Dangers in selling your soul to Google

Posted on Posted in Policies, Shock2008, Web 2.0

At the Oxford Shock of the Old Conference: I’ve just listened to a thought provoking talk by Ian Bell, Records Manager and Information Compliance Officer at the University of Dundee. It would be fun to get Ian in the same room as people like Martin Weller, who’s sold his soul to Google, and Tony Hirst, Web 2.0 innovator extraordinaire, whose soul is probably all over the Internet by now.

Ian presented a number of objections to universities hurling themselves into the Web 2.0 / personal learning environment World without thinking through the consequences (I am not suggesting Martin or Tony are doing that!) He pointed out a couple of scenarios which hadn’t previously occurred to me:

1. You tell your students to use a system hosted externally, maybe one which downloads client software to the learners’ machine. A student’s system gets corrupted and they claim that your institution is liable.

2. You use a free externally hosted collaboration system for audio conferencing for a tutorial and a student tells you during the session that they can’t complete an assignment due to a bereavement. You take no note of this and it slips your mind. Because there is no accessible record of the session you’re again opening up your institution to a liability. Of course this could also happen in a face to face setting and we didn’t worry too much about it then…

Bell also looked at the dangers of the blurring between our professional and personal lives.

Formal, informal and personal information

He categorised the information spaces as formal and personal, with a further informal space being the cross-over between these two worlds. He considered that it’s when materials cross over from the formal and the personal into the grey area of the informal that the potential problems occur.