In the essay Mining Student Data Could Save Lives, Michael Morris advocates for the idea that colleges should have access to the data of their students in order to prevent and safety hazards that some students may pose. At the time this was written, Morris describes how FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) rights had just been reviewed and changed, so that universities could use a students information without consent if it was thought necessary to protect the safety of others. That relied on observations from other students and faculty in order to make assumptions. Now, technology enables us to use algorithms designed to find unusual behaviors, and these algorithms are able to accurately predict the outcomes of these situations. Morris argues that campuses should be using this technology to analyze their students network traffic in order to prevent those safety hazards that may be a threat. Although many universities and their students might believe that this would be a violation of privacy, their data is already being used all over the internet. Morris describes examples of algorithms recognizing unusual credit card purchases, and others that are the reason why one might see an advertisement about something that they were shopping for earlier. Overall, Morris believes that colleges should be using these advances in technology to increase their security and safety, even if it may come at the cost of privacy.
This article gave me a different view on the “privacy vs security” argument. I originally said that I wouldn’t want my data to be viewed and used, but I never thought about applying it to a situation like this. In economics so far this semester, I’ve learned about opportunity costs. Opportunity cost emphasizes that in a situation, one should only do “it” if the benefits outweigh the costs. When applying that idea to this situation, I definitely believe that the benefits of giving up my privacy to my university would outweigh the costs. One of the costs of holding on to my privacy could possibly be my life or a serious injury if my university couldn’t act on a potentially violent student. I think this is pretty much the biggest possible cost, and I most definitely would not give up my life for a little more privacy.