Student webinar introduces ViziBLUE

“When I started at the university, data privacy was at the bottom of the list of things I cared about,” said Himaja Motheram of the student group Tech for Social Good at the February 2 Student Data, Privacy, and ViziBLUE webinar. “I didn’t understand everything that I did online left a digital footprint behind. But that was a simplistic view of data privacy.”

Motheram, a former ITS intern, joined fellow former interns Tianyu Jiang and Julia Silverman, along with Taylor Murray and Ceciel Zhong of Tech for Social Good, for the webinar, which was part of the Privacy@Michigan event series recognizing Data Privacy Day. Svetla Sytch, assistant director of privacy and IT policy in ITS Information Assurance, facilitated the discussion.

The panelists shared their perspectives on privacy and introduced the new student guide to personal data—ViziBLUE. At ViziBLUE, U-M students can find out what personal information the university collects and how it is used and shared. Silverman walked participants through a typical day in the life of a U-M student, pointing out what data is collected during routine activities like getting a library book or connecting to WiFi. Information about that data collection and use is in ViziBLUE.

Jiang, who designed and conducted student interviews as part of her work on ViziBLUE through the ITS internship program, explained that “U-M wants to improve transparency about students’ data with ViziBLUE.” Based on the interview results, the project team refined the amount of information and its layout on the ViziBLUE dashboard to better meet student needs and interests.

Added Sytch: “U-M is committed to the responsible and ethical handling of your information. When it comes to privacy, ask questions and take action.”

Zhong said, “Our student group Tech for Social Good is committed to creating space for folks who want to advocate for social justice causes through the lens of working in technology.” The panelists said they see privacy as very much a social justice issue. 

Said Murray, “Marginalized people especially are at risk of increased harm when their privacy is taken advantage of.” She added: “I want to inspire more people to talk more about privacy with other people. I want a culture where we are more open to talking about our privacy concerns.”

The panelists said that their understanding of privacy has changed as they have learned more. “Now data privacy is something that’s never an afterthought for me,” said Motheram, “and to me it means power to the people in a very specific sense.”

Slides from the webinar are available.