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Archive for the ‘ethics’ Category

Our local newspaper, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle has a front-page story about Facebook and the dispute over safety on the popular social networking site. State officials are investigating the solicitation of minors and the use of inappropriate images on the site. Two teens interviewed for the story expressed little or no concern over their privacy being violated by online predators:

“Aixin Wang, 17, of Brighton and a member of the Democrat and Chronicle Editorial Board’s Teen Council, said she has an account with Facebook, which she said “has been really safe in protecting my information” and “I haven’t had a problem with anything.” But she said that “if there seems to be a problem, it’s a good thing to check it out.”

Fellow Teen Council member Sujay Tyle, 14, who attends Pittsford Mendon High School, expressed similar sentiments. He said he feels secure on the site because he believes it adequately restricts contacts to invited friends and other members of his school.”

I have a problem with this, because no child or teenager should wholly trust a company to protect their privacy and their interests. This is the parents’ responsibility, who should be monitoring the teenagers and their use of online networking sites. It strikes me as an issue that needs to be addressed in the classroom, whether through the library or primary teacher, but a class on Internet privacy and information ethics should be an essential component to information literacy instruction.

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I’m currently taking a class in Second Life and we posted our first impressions of the virtual world to the class forum today.  One of my classmates posted this interesting article about a professor’s “second thoughts about Second Life”, which raises some important legal and ethical concerns about institutions of higher learning using and requiring students to participate in Second Life.  Among them:

What about a complaint by a student who agrees to meet the teacher’s avatar outside of class but in-world and then witnesses or engages in an unwanted virtual act? Or a claim of emotional distress filed by a student exposed to virtual shootings or any number of sexist, racist, homophobic, or offensive avatar behaviors?

Who is responsible?

Did you, as a faculty member who assigned your students an exercise on Second Life, have appropriate warnings in your syllabus for such scenarios? Will you have to pay legal fees to defend yourself if you signed up for Second Life and required your students to do so, too, without informing your supervisor?

Does your institution’s top administration or its legal, ombudsman, and equity offices even know about sexual harassment in virtual worlds? Has your campus teaching center promoted virtual-life games without investigating guidelines for use?

Based on its terms of service, Linden Lab may have anticipated some of those questions. It identifies itself as a distributor of content and, as such, “has very limited control, if any, over the quality, safety, morality, legality, truthfulness, or accuracy of various aspects of the Service.

That burden may fall on you.

These issues need to be discussed before land is bought, avatars created, classes formed inside the virtual world.

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