While co-authoring an article about the ethics and practicalities of elearning on the WWW, I'm becoming increasingly aware of how social networking sites are finding new and intrusive ways of gathering users' data from 3rd party sites (surveilance).
The most obvious are analytics, e.g. Google Analytics, but there are other less obvious techniques too. Have you thought about these:
Share buttons - Dont' just make it convenient to send a link to your friend(s), they also track users' browsing behaviour just like analytics. And then that's combined with click-through data for your friend(s) to share their web browsing habits them.
Social networking apps - A Facebook or Google app embedding on an LMS page basically shares your learners' and teachers' data and browsing habits with Facebook or Google whether or not they have Facebook or Google accounts.
In my opinion, words like "analytics" and "data mining" are euphamisms for surveilance. I suspect that if we require learners to enroll on their LMS' or learners face penalties or disadvantages by not enrolling, we are infringing on learners' and teachers' human rights. In the real world, we'd normally need a judge to sign a court order to place people under surveilance. In other words, we're compelling learners and teachers to share their data and browsing habits with 3rd parties, usually without informing them that we're doing so. Even if it isn't a legal issue, I think it's certainly a moral one.
So shouldn't Moodle plugins like these some with a strong warning?
Looking through the plugins repository, here's a few that look suspect:
- Integration: Facebook: http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=3316
- Block: Google Analytics (updateed GA Code): http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=4784
- Blocks: Flickr Image Carousel: http://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=block_flickr_image_carousel
- Blocks: Amazon Associates Block: http://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=block_amazon
- Blocks: Twitter Search Block: http://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=block_twitter_search
- Question Type: Imagedit - Student can edit an Image that a teacher provided using an online free editing service (Pixlr.com): http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=4674
- Other: Crot 2.0: Free tool for plagiarism detection for Moodle 2.0: http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=4655
- Small Hack: Tired of manually entering Google Analytics code to themes?: http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=4363
- Any more?
If you use Firefox as you web browser, there's a neat little extension that blocks and displays surveilance software. Pretty good for raising awareness: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/ghostery/?src=search
What do you think? Am I being melodramtic?
Looking forward to your responses