MET:Web 2.0 and Privacy in British Columbia

From UBC Wiki

This page authored by Nureen Visram and Paul O’Connor (2011) and re-edited by Troy Moore (2014).


Web 2.0 includes social bookmarking, social writing platforms, blogs, media sharing services, news services and social networking (Alexander, 2006). These tools allow users to easily generate content (Minocha, 2009). Educators may wish to have students use Web 2.0 tools; however, educators need to consider the risks and benefits of having students using these tools and potentially engaging with the broader Internet community (“Was introducing Wikipedia,” 2009) as well as the legislative requirements to protect student privacy.

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is a term coined by Tim O'Reilly, in 2004. It is based on the idea that the social sites were the second generation of web-based communities, which followed the dot-com bust of 2001. The sites that emerged from, or survived that time shared certain particular elements in common. They were social and not platform based. Until that point sites were regarded more by the platform, such as Netscape, and not by the idea of them as platform exclusive (O'Reilly, 2009). Google, for example, evolved from a web app, a search engine, into a forerunner in the Web 2.0 market. In addition, the idea of Web 2.0 moves the idea of a centralized web site to the desktop. Essentially this is a shifting paradigm of power where the web is no longer used for publishing, but for participating. The idea of user-generated content is the single most important feature of Web 2.0.

Let him tell you in his own words

The Web 2.0 sites including social networking sites (SNS), blogs, wiki, video, and photo sharing, encourage collaboration, participation, and the easy exchange of information. In fact, they are changing the way we interact with one another. People consistently and constantly share personal information and images more readily than ever before in history. In addition, the sharing of information is instantaneous. The idea behind the 2.0 is that social environments are created online. According to Caviglione & Coccoli (2011), Web 2.0 sites or networks fall into two categories:

Constrained - In this idea, infrastructure is driven by specific interests, such as books, movies, food, etc. Interests are highly specialized. Examples include yelp, Goodreads, Movie Maker, etc. This allows user to interact and react in situations they may be experts in, or specific areas they wish to learn about.

Unconstrained - In this idea participants are not limited to topics or well-defined concepts. Topics or sites are generalized and can be used in various ways. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.

Elements of 2.0

In keeping with the idea that in a Web 2.0 system, the user expects to have a participatory experience, many factors and elements must be considered with regard to the community ideology. The site must have specific traits which are somewhat uniform across the web. Web 2.0 is widely regarded as having specific features:

Element Outcomes
Tagging Allows users to classify or organize links
Comments Allows users to comment on content, also allows 'trolling' (disingenuous responses)
User contributor User contributes content, enhances information
Trust Knowledge privacy is limited
File sharing allows sharing between users
Open source copyright free
RSS Allows subscription for new content
Apps Different uses within sites

User generated content

One of the biggest draws or ideas behind 2.0 is the idea of user generated information.

User generated content is the voluntary provision of unpaid contributors to a site or program. The provision can be in the form of video, photos,commentary, artistry, etc. The medium of the content is not important, the fact that it is freely shared is what is important. UGC have grown in popularity, exploding the advent of youtube in 1995. Now many of the sites popular today are UGCs. Interactions within the SNS or OSN (online social network) are driven by sharing of information, which is supplied by individuals. There exists questions as to what is given in addition to information. Many users are forced to share elements which they may not be comfortable with, such as birthdate, email, name, place, etc. Therefore, shared consent is a crucial element of user generated content. Wikipedia is a prime example of an effective UGC. Users contribute all the information and fact for the site. It has steadily grown into one of the top sites in the world. Facebook is another example of this style of UGC. The entirety of the social media site is made up of information of the user, from status updates, to shared stories. However, problems still exist within the UGC. The problem with UGCs is the fact that the voice of the contributor can be inconsistent and false. In addition, without constant monitoring, UGCs can be home to hateful behaviour, profanity, or pornography. If one allows contributors to post what they want, there has to be certain expectations in regard to content.

An additional problem is that content is extremely geographically relevant. A UGC requires common ground, yet given the fact that UGCs require user contribution, cultural ideology and prejudice weigh heavily into the data contributed. However, false information cultural challenges, and copyright material are some of the challenges that need to be considered when dealing with Web 2.0.

Considerations when deciding to use Web 2.0 tools

Web 2.0 tools have gained popularity as they can be used to engage students in authentic tasks and new modes of communication (“Was introducing Wikipedia,” 2009). Because these tools blur the boundaries between private and professional, educational institutions face potential liabilities or questions of professionalism when students collaborate online. This can leave educators feeling like they will be held responsible if problems arise ("Class turn off," 2010)


Copyright is a major concern in terms of ownership and authorship of the materials. Given that many do not understand copyright laws, and the ease of which the 'cut and paste' generation gathers and garners information, copyright violation is easy. In particular, educators may be uneasy about copyright in regards to materials that are inappropriately posted in a teaching setting. This is a common trap for students, as many feel if the work is for school it is okay to infringe or copy. Students should be encouraged to abide by copyright laws when posting material online and to be aware how quickly something can be shared.

Intellectual Property

Until e-learning and the internet, the idea of intellectual property was an easy one. Copyrighted material, such as books, articles, and academic papers all should copyright and intellectual property. The idea of the web and especially Web 2.0 changed the landscape. Given opensourcing is becoming more and more commonplace, who holds intellectual property rights? The rise of e-learning caused many institutions to change their intellectual property policies, because it is crucial in e-learning. In the 'regular' classroom, the instructor may lecture or speak and virtually nothing else is required, as far as materials go, however, in e-learning, material cannot be given by an instructor in that manner. Therefore, material for course becomes its own presence in e-learning situations. This causes teaching and learning activities to change as well.

Internet Safety

Internet safety and victimization is another concern. The conduct of students is a major consideration, as students may engage in inappropriate behaviour, like bullying with their classmates (Wishart, 2004). The policies that educational institutions have in place may cover behaviors, rather than specifically outline the technology used to engage in those behaviours.

In addition, students share so much content and information within social networks, that safety is a huge concern. Students may require additional information, such as that provided by Digital Tatoo, to manage and protect their online reputation and identity.

Privacy Laws

Existing privacy laws are put in place to safeguard citizens’ identities but do not explicitly convey to educators how to use Web 2.0 tools. The use of Web 2.0 tools by students should comply with provincial protection of privacy legislation, for example the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP) in British Columbia. The act specifically identifies a person’s name and educational history as personal information (Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, 2004). An email addresses may also be considered as personal information (The Freedom of Information, 2010). The act requires that personal information collected by educational bodies in British Columbia, and by extension, companies providing services for these organizations, be stored in Canada unless the individual has given their consent for it be stored in another country (The Freedom of Information, 2010).

Best Practices for Protecting Privacy

Choices made when sharing information online are crucial because once information is shared it is difficult to reverse the content from being publicly available. Educators can use strategies to either avoid requiring students to create accounts with Web 2.0 services or to do so in a manner that complies with the FOIPP Act, see for example, Simon Fraser University's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Program.

Class Accounts

A single account is created by the instructor and then used by the class. For example, a class would be able to share useful resources through social bookmarking service like Delicious.

Anonymous Accounts

The Live Journal blogging platform does not require users to provide their name when creating an account; however, users do need to provide an email address which may be considered personal information (The Freedom of Information, 2010).

Canadian Services

Some Web 2.0 tools are offered by companies or organizations that operate from Canada or have located servers in Canada (Carnevale, 2007) to comply with the FOIPP Act. For example, an online survey creation and analysis service has servers in Montreal (“Protect Your Information,” 2007). Educational institutions may opt to host web 2.0 tools (Diaz, 2010). For example, the University of British Columbia hosts WordPress Multi-user installation and Mediawiki installations (elearning tools @ ubc, 2010).

Consent and Alternative Assessment

Students may give their consent to have their information stored in another jurisdiction, however they should be aware consent is voluntary. In such cases, students need to be aware that their personal information will be stored outside Canada and it will be subject to the terms of use of the site and to foreign laws (Social networking key, 2008). Diaz recognizes that some students may not be comfortable with such stipulations and she believes alternates such as offering students the option of completing an assignment in private rather than in a public domain should be offered (Diaz, 2010).

Creative Commons

Creative common areas now exist whereby people post content with the knowledge it will be open sourced, or at least shared and credited. However, it is should be noted that creative commons does not necessarily protect someone from copyright as many of the images shared may violate copyright law. Flickris a great example of the use of the common core.

Top Web 2.0 Sites and Policy

The following is list of the top 10 Web 2.0 sites, their monthly visitors, and their privacy policies (as of March 2014):

Website Monthly Visitors Privacy Policy
Youtube 1,000,000,000 Youtube Privacy Policy
Facebook 900,000,000 Facebook Privacy Policy
Wikipedia 475,000,000 Wikipedia Privacy Policy
Twitter 310,000,000 Twitter Privacy Policy
Wordpress 240,000,000 Wordpress Privacy Policy
Pinterest 150,000,000 Pinterest Privacy Policy
Craigslist 111,000,000 Craigslist Privacy Policy
Tumblr 110,000,000 Tumblr Privacy Policy
IMDB 90,000,000 IMDB Privacy Policy
Yelp 85,500,000 Yelp Privacy Policy
Instagram 85,000,000 Instagram Privacy Policy


Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: a new wave of innovation for teaching and learning?. Educause Review, 4(2), 32-44, Retrieved from

Carnevale, D. (2007). Fearing Prying U.S. Eyes, Canada's Colleges Crack Down on Computing. Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(3), A23-A24. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Class turn off your cellphones [Audio Podcast]. (2010, October 18). Search Engine. Retrieved from

Craigslist. (2014). Privacy Policy. Available from:

Diaz, V. (2010). Web 2.0 and emerging technologies in online learning. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2010(150), 57-66. doi:10.1002/cc.405

Educational Technology Department. (2010). Proposed Web 2.0 and Email Guidelines. Chinook’s Edge School Division No.73. Retrieved from

eLearning Tools @ UBC. (2010). University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia. Retrieved from

Facebook (2014). Privacy Policy. Available from:

Fyfe, t., & Crookall. Social Media and Public Sector Policy Dilemmas. (2010). The Institute of Public Communication of Canada. Retrieved from

George, C. E., & Scerri, J. (2007). Web 2.0 and user-generated content: legal challenges in the new frontier . Journal of Information, Law and Technology, 2. Retrieved from

Hickman, M.& Marques, P.(2009, August 26). School policy and student expectations- diverging realities [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Hoffman, E. (2009). Social media and learning environments: shifting perspectives on the locus of control. In Education, 15(2), Retrieved from

IMDB. (2014). Privacy Policy. Available from:

Instagram. (2014). Privacy Policy. Available from:

Karahasanovic, A., Brandtzaeg, P. B., Vanattenhaven, J., Lievens, B., Nielsen, K. T., & Piersen. J. (2009). Ensuring trust, privacy, and etiquette in Web 2.0 applications. Computer, 42 (6), 42-49.

Kumar, A. & Kumar, P. (2010). Issues and challenges of the diffusion of Web 2.0 on user privacy. Journal of Information, Privacy, and Security, 6 (2), 1-2.

Minocha, S. (2009). A case study-based investigation of students' experiences with social software tools. New Review of Hypermedia & Multimedia, 15(3), 245-265. doi:10.1080/13614560903494320

O'Reilly, T. (2009). What is Web 2.0: design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. O'Reilly Media, Inc.

Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Coulumbia, (2004). A guide to access and privacy protection under B.C.’s freedom of information and protection of privacy act (FOIPP) Victorica, British Columbia: Retrieved from

Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, (n.d.). The OIPC’s role and mandate Victoria, British Columbia: Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Retrieved from

Pinterest. (2014). Privacy Policy. Available from:

Protect Your Information: Servers in Canada! (2007). Ask it online. Retrieved February 04, 2011, from

Social networking key messages for sfu students, staff and educators. (2008). Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia. Retrieved from

The freedom of information and protection of privacy act and online surveys. (2010). Memorandum, Access & Privacy Manager, Office of the University Counsel, University of British Coulmbia, Vancouver, British Columbia. Retrieved from

Treasury board of Canada Secretariat. (2010) Government of Canada Web 2.0 Making a Difference – Making it Happen. Retrieved from

Tumblr. (2014). Privacy Policy. Available from:

Twitter. (2014). Privacy Policy. Available from:

Using Web 2.0 Tools in Instruction. (n.d.). Retrieved from Vancouver Island University Website:

Was introducing Wikipedia to the classroom an act of madness leading only to mayhem if not murder?. (2009, May 1). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 04, 2011, from

Wang, A. (2013). Online privacy: a concern for all. Retrieved from:

Why is information privacy an issue?. (2010). Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2014). Privacy Policy. Available from:

Wishart, J. (2004). Internet safety in emerging educational contexts. Computers & Education, 43(1/2), 193. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2003.12.013

Wordpress. (2014). Privacy Policy. Available from:

Yelp. (2014). Privacy Policy. Available from:

Youtube. (2014). Privacy Policy. Available from:

External Links

University of Edinburgh Information Services Guidelines for Using External Web 2.0 Service