Arrested for a Facebook post

Next month I have an article that’s going to be published called Social Media Ethics in English Language Teaching in The JALT CALL Journal (my publications). One of the key points in it is that there can be repercussions for people if a conservative society does not like what they post. This story of two reporters who where arrested for posting on Facebook a story of financial incompetence illustrates that point chilling well. See Human Rights Watch, Mozambique: Two men facing trial for a Facebook post. You can support the the journalists by writing to the Minister of Justice and the Public Prosecutor to demand their release.

Internet censorship. Image CC from OpenSource.Com, at

Internet censorship. Image CC from OpenSource.Com, at

Social networking ethics in CALL

This weekend the Japan Association of Language Teachers special interest group Computer Assisted Language Learning (JALTCALL) will be holding their annual conference in Nagoya at Sugiyama Jogakuen University (5min walk from Hoshigaoka Stn on the Higashiama (yellow) subway line). Details: I’ll be presenting my topic of Social networking ethics in CALL. As I’ve been doing additional research for this presentation I’ve come to realise that the main conceptualisation of this topic is about privacy, first and foremost. I’ve also realised how important the maintenance of privacy is for trust and bonds between friends and family, and by extension for classroom dynamics, too. Learn more at the conference, and I hope to see you there. The blurb:

This presentation is a follow up on the article published in ELT Journal by Blyth (2010). It calls for careful consideration in using social networking services (SNS) like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others. Whilst using SNS may facilitate more efficient language acquisition, there are certain risks that have not been discussed. Traditionally, classrooms are closed environments, where the outside world cannot see in, providing students with a private sphere to practice and experiment with their interlanguage. The use of SNS is effectively allowing the outside world to peek in and see students’ attempts at language use, not as a moment in a process, but as like a product. The effect can be negative, and potentially damaging to personal and professional reputations. Particular word choices or sentences may be misconstrued or misinterpreted, and may harm the students’ reputations now, or in the future. Especially when comments are published on long forgotten websites like the future equivalents of Friendster, Geocities, Tripod, or abandoned personal blogs. This presentation will conclude with a discussion, and key points may be published in the conference proceedings.

Currently the presentation is scheduled for room 502 at 3.40 to 4.20pm. I’ll eventually have PowerPoint slides uploaded so you can view them during and after the presentation at Winjeel.Com/research.htm. Hopefully I’ll remember to audio record the presentation so audio would be available via SoundCloud.

Ethics, privacy, and respect

I think many people have many ‘ah-ha!’ moments in a week. A tweet from Australia’s ABC news with this big data story prompted a little ‘ah-ha! moment’. It’s about big data and the companies that wish to cash in on this. At the moment in Japan, the US, and apparently most African countries, it’s ok for them to sell their customer data to anyone who has the money to buy it.

Many Japanese learnt last night on NHK News that the IC card they use to pay for train fares, the East JR Suica card, has been collecting all manner of customer data including station they board and alight from, vending machine purchases and demographic details, and that data has already been sold on to at least one major company, and is now available for even small businesses to exploit. So Suica card users pay for their card use, and are also products that East JR can make more money from. That is to say, customers are a commodity.

Electronic ticket barriers at a Japanese train station

Electronic ticket barriers at a Japanese train station

FaceBook famously sells their customer data on to even political parties. In the hands of a belligerent extremist party, raises serious ethical issues.

Even though NHK assured Japanese people that Suica customer data is divorced of people’s names, they failed to mention that Japanese companies has a bad reputation for data security. Especially in light of Sony and Nintendo data breaches that have risked credit card information (Computer Weekly, Engadget, and Japan Times). Furthermore, the UFJ Bank has had one of its employees sell, for a personal profit, customer credit card information to gangsters (I can’t find the original story, but here’s another, Data Breaches).

In Taiwan and Korea, they say the ‘customer is king’, or that customers are very prized and ought to be treated with equal respect. However, selling customer data breaches this notion, especially when customers are not 1. Forewarned, 2. Have no opt out option, 3. Informed after the fact, 4. Have the option of buying a single trip tickets at least twice a day (often much more) and no other privacy respecting option.

The ABC story cited above shows that Australia has very strict regulation and respect for people. In contrast the US and Japanese companies and politicians view customers as yet another commodity. I hate to think that someone is making money off of my existence and I don’t have the right to monetize it myself, or I don’t have the right to earn royalties, or I don’t have the option of opting out.