Reflecting on privacy and ethical considerations has been something that has been growing in my mind since researching productivity sweets. At the very core, it appears that there is a lot of good. Students and teachers have access to a variety of different platforms to help showcase learning and present it in new, fun, collaborative ways. On the other hand what do we give up for these services? Well, money is for sure one. When it comes to productivity sweets we discussed how it may seem like they are free to established “Educational” institutions, but that is for the barebones programs. How much the actually charge to these educational institutions is a mystery and seems to be locked up between the provider and the users. However, one thing is definitely known. These companies that own productivity suites, like Microsoft and Google, make a ton of money and what they do with that money/how they acquire some of that money may go against ethical practices.
To elaborate here are the links to how much the paid versions of these suites cost to the everyday person or small business owner:
Charging for a service, such as having the ability to use suites, makes sense to most of us. We pay for something and receive a good or service. This is pretty standard. One of the areas I want to highlight is surrounding google and their main way of generating revenue: advertising. Below is an article explaining how Google makes money off advertising:
If you are using google suites in a school setting, you are also most likely using a Chromebook ( at least $200 a piece). If for any reason you send them online in a Chromebook (which the school has paid for) they will also most likely encounter advertisements when utilizing the technology, which then sends even more money Google’s way. This can be on the side margins of google searches, on websites, YouTube videos, etc. With enough use, the advertisements will start to reflect the interests searched (or interests assumed by someone with a similar search history). As discussed in my presentation, this has many different implications.
To begin, you can find the list here to see how Alphabet (Google’s parent-company) is spending some of its money. A form of ethics we need to consider is if a company is making a profit off of us, are we okay with how that company is spending its money? If a company is spending their money in a way we don’t agree with, many people boycott that company. In the case of productivity suites, like Microsoft and google, we don’t really have the option to. They are the dominant forces and are pretty much the standard in many institutions. Many seem to never dive into what those companies spend their money on, but would you be okay if they were donating to/paying money to something you didn’t agree with. In the grand scheme of things, if you are supporting them (google/microsoft) and they are supporting something you don’t agree with by funds, you are essentially saying this is okay. A bigger question one could ask is, do you know what most large scale companies (think grocery stores, amazon, etc.) are doing with our money?
A second ethical question is should Google or Microsoft be able to tailor specific advertisements to its users? This really puts the power of who is more likely to make profit to these big organizations. The more a business wants it’s product to have the likelihood of coming up on someone’s search, the more they pay a company like google. This doesn’t guarantee that their product will even show up though. Based off our data, Google makes itself a fortune, and gives a similar opportunity to others. This is all derived from us just utilizing the web. Should a company have that much power? What if they are endorsing advertisements for businesses that they themselves have questionable ethics in a variety of other fields? Many of the contracts signed with schools and productivity state that they will not store data, however targeted adds have still been derived and shows some kind of data-save or utilizing that data. It is really hard for a school to really ever be able to tell if it’s info is being used or not.
Below is an article which also discusses how google doesn’t always have control over what advertisements pop up for people. Sometimes certain, inappropriate ads that violate their guidelines slip through. This causes even more ethical concerns as now content, which they say they won’t showcases, can be seen and make a profit for them, regardless of content.
For the most part, I believe productivity suites are great for schools. There are endless possibilities that can be used through them. However, I feel that when we look at the good, we also need to look at the bad to see what we could potentially make even better or more equitable. Just because something is the way it is, and it may not negatively affect an individual, does not mean that it is the best way of going about things or is actually benefitting everyone. In many cases, it may be benefitting some disproportionally.