New Privacy Teaching Materials from Fordham Law

by Bob Gellman October 17th, 2013 10:57 am

This is the press release from Fordham about the program for teaching privacy at middle schools. There's a link in the release to the materials. I thought some folks here might be interested. Bob

Fordham Law School’s Center for Law and Information Policy has announced and released a first-ever curriculum for privacy education geared to middle school students. The program was financed by a court-approved settlement in the class action law suit against NebuAd. Fordham Law student volunteers taught a pilot program last spring at PS191 in New York City, and now Fordham CLIP is launching a partnership with volunteers from law schools and university research centers who will teach the program in middle schools across the country. Participating students and faculty include the following schools: Berkeley Law, UC-Irvine, Georgetown, Harvard’s Berkman Center, Idaho, Northern Kentucky, Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy, Roger Williams, Seattle, Suffolk, Tulane, Washington University-St. Louis, and Yale.

Fordham CLIP is making the curriculum available as a set of free open source documents on the CLIP website http://law.fordham.edu/privacyeducators to any educators who want to use the instructional materials to address the many privacy issues teens face as their use of technology skyrockets.

The need for this type of education is revealed by recent reports from the Pew Research Center that 93% of teens ages 12 to 17 go online, 53% of teens post their email address online, 20% post their cell phone number and 33% are connected online to people they have never met.

“As online technologies become a key feature in young teens’ lives, parents and educators must teach teens about the privacy and safety implications of these technologies,” said Joel Reidenberg, Fordham Law professor and founding director of CLIP. “We’ve designed a program and enlisted a team of volunteers to help educate children about how to use these devices safely so they don’t make mistakes that can impact them for many years.”

Jordan Kovnot '11, an associate at the law firm Olender Feldman and former Fordham CLIP Privacy Fellow, developed the program during the course of his fellowship last year and supervised the group of volunteer Fordham law students who taught the program last spring to a class of 7th graders at PS191 in Manhattan. The program features a set of one-hour long sessions covering topics such as: 1) privacy basics; 2) how to deal with passwords and behavioral ads; 3) navigating social media and tricky situations; 4) understanding mobile, WiFi and facial recognition; and 5) managing a digital reputation.

"Our middle school students were challenged to think about privacy in their everyday lives,” said Nichole Gagnon, the PS191 classroom teacher for the pilot class. “Many teens believe that because they are communicating through their own personal accounts, phones and computers that it is private. While interacting with the law students, they soon realized that nothing that is public can be private at the same time."


Ancestry.com Attacked by Consumer Group

by Bradley Jansen October 3rd, 2013 10:21 am

The main goal of this project is to get the genealogical, privacy and technology communities talking with each other, not past each other.  We have a lot of work to do.

Jennifer Abel at Consumer Affairs has an article up taking issue with complaints they've received about Ancestry.com.  Her article can be found here:


The article appears to be mostly a collection of complaints they've received strung together.  The first comment was from popular genealogy speaker Thomas MacEntree who labels it a hit piece (and had some fun explaining that there is no "easy button" in genealogy) while others criticized as if people should expect genealogy companies to be immune from complaints.  And here's the thing--they ARE companies and for THAT REASON we need consumer groups to monitor them, report complaints, and ideally, get the companies to change policies and procedures, improve their service and offer better products.

In a capitalist society, the market process DEPENDS on watchdogs to help improve the evolution of business practices, new innovations, etc.  Burying our heads in the sand or making excuses is a recipe for stagnation and failure.

I for one welcome this as another opportunity to spark the dialog that this genealogical privacy project thinks is desperately needed.


National Geographic Echoes Our Concerns

by Bradley Jansen October 1st, 2013 11:47 am

A new post on National Geographic's Phenomena Only Human blog echoes the concerns of our genealogical privacy project here--and gives us a shout out too!  Thanks!

Virginia Hughes in "The End of Family Secrets?" writes

Thanks to genealogy hobbyists like Cheryl, genetic databases are growing larger every day. And this raises some important issues regarding privacy and ethics. It’s plausible that in the not-­too-­distant future, we’ll all be identifiable in genetic databases, whether through our personal contribution or that of our relatives. Is that a good thing? A bad thing?

She explains the broad spectrum of answers from concerns about Big Brother to consumer benefits "estimating your medical risks or unearthing family secrets" before leading us to where we all know we're headed if the genealogical community doesn't get its act together: lawsuits.

I urge everyone concerned with records access, genealogy, genetic testing and privacy to read her post.


Genealogical Importance Grows--and So Must Privacy

by Bradley Jansen October 1st, 2013 11:36 am

Not only are there more anecdotal hints of the growing popularity and importance of genealogy, such as the new PBS show Genealogy Roadshow, but a new professional survey by Global Industry Associates, Inc. confirms it.  According to their survey:

Genealogical enthusiasts are spending between US$1000 to US$18000 a year to discover his or her roots. The growth of the genealogy research market is being spurred by the spending of over 84 million genealogists. Emerging trends, such as male adoptees using consumer DNA tests to discover their surname, are expected to further promote growth of this industry. In January 2009, the number of individuals undergoing genetic genealogy testing to ascertain their lineage reached almost 765,000, displaying a considerable increase from nearly 650,000 individuals taking the test as of November 2007.

Wow, there are 84 million of us now--and our numbers are growing fast.  The increasingly easy access to ever-more records and histories, the growing ability to crowd source genealogical researching with cousins and others in far flung places--and not having to do it simultaneously--have all lowered the bar for those interested in their family history.

Technological advances digitalizing more information, sharing more information, etc., coupled with genetic genealogy are opening a whole new world to a whole new generation of genealogists--of all ages.

Great sites like FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, Archive.org, Cindislist, Mocavo and others such as state histories all make researching as easy as point and click.  Now I can start practicing my old man routine, "When I was your age, I had to get in my car and drive to cemeteries and county courthouses."  Kids today..but I digress.

Suffice it to say, as Uncle Ben from the Spider-Man series explained, with great power comes great responsibility.  One of the biggest challenges of that new great responsibility will be how we handle privacy concerns.