Michael Morris has written an article arguing that ‘Mining student data could save lives’ for The Chronicle. Morris thinks that places of higher education should use the data they gather about their students from their servers to spot certain behavioral patterns or “warning signs” that could lead to certain situations such as terrorist attacks. He argues that the number of people killed will decrease and that this is a justification for making data public over keeping it private. I disagree with the author’s thesis because I believe that even though “data mining could save lives” it will actually cause more problems than it solves.
Once we start giving up our right to privacy of information we begin to lose track of where we draw the line between whether something should be kept private or made public. For example, in the San Bernardino shootings where Apple refused to allow the government access to the shooter’s phone. Had Apple conceded to the government’s wishes then not only does it undermine our basic human rights as citizens to privacy but also it gives the impression that any organization can gain access to any information whenever they want it in the name of security. Once we start exchanging our freedom (of privacy) for safety then these organizations, in this case universities, then this can lead to universities and other organizations requesting and compiling more data from us which just makes the term “privacy” obsolete. This huge compilation of data may not only be available to the organizations themselves but to other people with malicious intent too.
If every student agreed to let their data be used by the university or college that only creates another problem which is making sure that all that information is kept safe and secure. If a university collects data from students and this information isn’t protected well enough, thousands of people’s names, financial information, phone numbers, and other things will be available for anyone to get access to. This happened recently at Michigan State University which then lead to the administrative staff paying a ransom of $15,000 for the hackers to stop. This attack, although small, clearly shows how mining student data can make more people susceptible to crimes than the amount of lives that it could potentially save.
To conclude, while I agree that Morris’ argument that data mining could save lives, I do think the implications of mining such data not only puts more people at risk to a different variety of crimes but also, creates a gray area of what information we can actually keep private, if there is any.