WATER COOLER [POLITICS & POLICY]
When Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Stuart Madnick teaches his class on the ethics of cybersecurity, he begins by polling his students on whether they highly value privacy. Year after year, the results are consistent: nearly all of his students agree.
Then, he polls them on whether they highly value security. Again, he receives a near-unanimous affirmation. His third and final poll gets at the crux of his lesson: What happens if data privacy and security are pitted against one another? Which one becomes more important?
Suddenly his students’ opinions scatter across the spectrum.
This tension between security and privacy is a perennial question for the US Supreme Court, and its latest incarnation comes in the form of Carpenter v. US, which the high court is hearing arguments on today (Nov. 29). The case, which hinges on whether the government needs a warrant based on probable cause to see your cell-phone location data, could have far-reaching implications on consumer privacy in the digital age. “The ruling is highly critical,” Brenda Sharton, a litigation partner and chair of law firm Goodwin’s privacy and cybersecurity group, told Quartz. “Each time the US Supreme Court opines on these matters, it’s highly relevant to what happens in your life.”
Higher education people most often turn to each other when they're trying to make decisions about education technology. And it's not uncommon for them to start with a particular technology and then find a problem to solve, vs. identifying a pedagogical need and then looking for the tech tools that would address the challenges.
Last week the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission published his plan to dismantle Obama-era regulations protecting "net neutrality" -- the idea that all web content should be treated equally by internet service providers.
Under the FCC proposal, due to be voted on Dec. 14 by the majority-Republican commission, ISPs would have the freedom to slow down or even block websites or online services that do not serve their commercial interests. They could also charge their customers a fee to prioritize the delivery of their content through the creation of internet “fast lanes.”
Higher education groups have been united in their condemnation of the net neutrality rollback, which they say could make it more difficult for students and the public to access educational resources, and potentially impose huge costs on institutions.
Jarret Cummings, director of policy and government relations at Educause, said the FCC proposal was concerning for higher education on “multiple levels” and would likely have a significant negative impact on higher education “and the internet as a whole.”
A string of armed robberies could be deeply connected to your digital privacy, and how easily the government can track you and your phone in the future. The reason is a case that's set to hit the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
It's called Carpenter v. United States. It concerns Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted of organizing and supplying guns for a number of robberies in the Midwest and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. The thieves in those robberies targeted Radio Shack stores and other electronic outlets, and made off with sacks full of smartphones—somewhat ironically, since Carpenter's phone is at the heart of the case.
Monica Herck, the committee's vice president of education research, highlighted three of the recommendations in particular for Congress to consider. First, she echoed a proposal to establish Lifetime Learning Accounts, which would replace 529s and similar state-sponsored plans and serve as a singular destination for all grants, scholarships, student loans and family contributions to allow families to see all available funding in one place.
Second, Herck pointed out, student loan portfolios should be managed by the Department of the Treasury, not ED. "It's more in Treasury's DNA than it is in Education's DNA," she said, noting not only the sizable portfolio but the ability of the Treasury to potentially intervene and provide families with more information earlier in the process.
Most organizations of higher education are painfully conservative, perhaps reflecting the conserving nature of university mission and life. Our experience has been that the dual objectives of predictable financial performance and positive institutional reputation, have significant impact on areas not well understood by principally lay boards of trustees and university councils, and non-technical chief executives. Information and communication technology (ICT) perhaps represents the quintessential fear- inducing aspect of enterprise functions, resulting in generally conservative approaches to expenditure and development. Paradoxically, ICT is also seen as an important source of efficiency and innovation, creating an ongoing tension between risk aversion and risk acceptance. The tension results in a continuing discussion about investment, performance, competitiveness and return on investment.