Concerns about digital privacy are so ubiquitous that they have become part of the wallpaper of life, but the implications of large data and predictive analytics on privacy merit serious scholarly attention. Recently, a colleague recounted that he had purchased potato chips at a store with cash and was surprised the next day to be targeted with advertisements for the same chips on his home computing device. This anecdote encapsulates nicely the developments with digital privacy and surveillance in a world where the consumer is not aware of the hidden workings of corporate surveillance. North America in particular has entered into an era where the private human experience is being captured through digital devices, with or without permission, and sold for profit.
The reality is that neither policy nor education has kept pace with these digital developments, to the point that vast amounts of data are collected, synthesized, and sold without the consumer’s express permission or cognizance. Data are captured continuously from smart devices and Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage, documenting individuals’ locations and preferences. Many personal elements of life are voluntarily shared online such as heart rate and sleep habits. The “creep” of data collected with and without permission is greater than most people realize.
The educational implications of this surveillance need to be explored. Parents, students, educational leaders, and the general public have a right to know how digital surveillance works and the implications for predictive analytics on their futures and their decision-making in a democratic society. Policy gaps are evident surrounding digital privacy and education. More critical, interdisciplinary approaches to policy analysis are needed in education, guided by a critical policy analysis framework that interrogates all aspects of policy related to this emerging issue.