Higher education requires higher guard of online privacy

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When an individual decides to take the plunge and become a student, they ultimately make the choice to put their trust and their investments into the relationships they build during their time as a student, as well as the university itself that they choose to attend. It makes all the sense in the world. the people that we align ourselves with and invest our time into, in any stage of life, shape who we are. They become some of our closest friends, and sometimes even our families away from our families (particularly for those students that live on campus). Additionally, with universities being the primary environment for students throughout their studies, they should want to protect those students.

Generally, it seems like common sense for students to protect their passwords and keep them secure, especially with fellow students or roommates. Even though most other students are trustworthy, there are the occasional few that do prove to be less than morally sound. While most students are generally quite smart and protective of their privacy against their peers, there is a preconceived notion that students can trust their university to protect their privacy. Unfortunately, however, this has proven not to be the case for some higher education institutions, especially lately. Students must not only safeguard their online privacy with roommates and fellow students, but (perhaps shockingly) students are subject to online privacy invasion from the very universities and colleges that they attend. Universities are increasingly monitoring their students’ online activity, and they are doing so in ways that are not immediately brought to the attention of those students, as they should be.

Everything from students’ virtual presence and interactions, such as emails and social media use, to their physical presence, such as campus whereabouts, is subject to potential monitoring – and it quite often is now. University and college administrators are using surveillance and tracking tools and programs to essentially keep tabs on their students. Legal representatives of these institutions claim that the surveillance and tracking tools and programs are necessary as protective measures for their stakeholders. This claim is flawed, and frankly insulting. Realistically, these actions are – more often than not – just heavy-handed strategic moves used to control their public image…regardless of the impact that it might have on students. The data collected by universities and colleges in their bid to maintain control over their students’ privacy, can be stored, used, or even used against students. It is an unfortunate reality, and it is one that more and more students are finding difficult to accept.

The value of privacy cannot be overstated, particularly when it comes to personal data. Students can obviously invest in a VPN to protect themselves online, and they have access to various platforms that can help them decipher the ins and outs of a VPN, such as SaferVPN review and word-of-mouth testimonials. Using a VPN can help students gain control of their online privacy, and gives them a sense of security that some feel is lacking in the way their university handle such matters. Students can gain a certain sense of security when using a VPN that they otherwise would have to go without. This sense of security can make the difference when it comes to a student’s trust and sense of virtual safety in regard to their university and surrounding individuals.

While some educational institutions maintain that it is their fundamental right to have insight into their students’ private activities while on campus, it is a constant topic of fierce debate among academics, students, and the wider communities. The desire for online privacy to remain strictly private can be misconstrued by higher education institutions as a reason for distrust, but it is simply a desire for respect of the rights of students. Not unlike other industries and sectors, universities and colleges must ultimately find the balance between the necessity of online security and the network users’ right to privacy. It is a tricky line to walk.

Online privacy and security are hugely important in the grand scheme of things, and they should be particularly important to those (like students) that catalogue more and more of their lives online. As the world continues to move towards an all-consuming digital takeover, online privacy and security must be top priorities for anyone and everyone. Everyone should have peace of mind that the industries that they align themselves with and invest their time and money into, have their best interests at heart. Universities and colleges must be warier of the potential for student unease in the wake of their invasive online perusal into their student’s accounts. What seems like a necessity to them can be construed as an invasion of privacy and basic rights by students. And without students, there are no universities. To remain relevant, viable institutions, universities and colleges must learn to respect and value the online (and all aspects, for that matter) privacy and security of their student bodies.

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