TAMUC Co-Hosts Privacy Week to Explore Digital Privacy

A&M-Commerce played a significant role in organizing and hosting an international event to promote discussions about digital privacy in academics and the wider community.

The DRPC's flyer for Privacy Week 2024
Flyer for the DRPC’s Privacy Week | Courtesy of the DRPC

Texas A&M University-Commerce played a significant role in the Digital Rhetorical Privacy Collective's (DRPC) first Privacy Week, which ran from January 22 through 26. Privacy Week took place over five days across five different universities to encourage academic discussions about data privacy and digital surveillance.

The DRPC was founded in 2022 by Dr. Charles Woods, assistant professor of Literature and Languages at A&M-Commerce, and five of his colleagues as an opportunity for academics and scholars to develop a growing understanding of digital privacy and surveillance. As technologies like AI emerge and companies profit from selling individual user data, discussions about consumer privacy and how that data is used become vital. Rather than isolating the conversation to technical fields such as computer science or technology, the DRPC encourages academics in other disciplines, including rhetoric and composition and technical communication, to contribute to ongoing discussions and discoveries.

“We’ve begun to pay attention to educational technologies, like learning management systems such as our own D2L, TurnItIn, and similar programs,” said Woods. “We've begun to ask, ‘How are these tech tools potentially used for surveillance to invade students' privacy or infringe on their intellectual property rights?'…The DRPC tries to cultivate a space for those conversations to happen.”

A Conversation Across Disciplines

Privacy Week was created to foster an environment where multidisciplinary conversations could occur among academics. Privacy Week events are held concurrently with Data Privacy Week, which the National Cybersecurity Alliance created in a global effort to raise awareness of protecting an individual’s digital data and building trust among consumers and websites. The scholars in the DRPC decided to piggyback off this worldwide event and create their own academic version of Privacy Week.

The week-long event was held at five institutions and college campuses in the U.S., including A&M-Commerce, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, University of Maryland-College Park, Utah State University, and Binghamton University.

Privacy Week activities included panel discussions, workshops, student demonstrations and a keynote panel. Some events were virtual, held solely on Zoom, while others were conducted at one of the five campuses. However, all on-campus meetings also offered hybrid options so that Privacy Week participants could attend any or all events, regardless of location. Additionally, the DRPC posted recordings of the events for anyone to watch.

“It was a bit like a traditional academic conference,” Woods said, “except ours was decentralized. Rather than hosting it all in one location, we intentionally decentralized it because we feel that’s what [the DRPC’s] coalitional approach is all about.”

Event Outcomes

For a first-time event, Privacy Week had a great turnout. Eighteen scholars from 14 different institutions participated as presenters. Although most were in America, the event did draw international scholars. Approximately 80 people attended the keynote presentation. Woods said that he and those who helped organize the DRPC’s Privacy Week felt great pride in the results, and they hope to make it an annual event.

“We would definitely like to make this an annual event, provided we have the funding,” he said. “But we also have lots of other goals that we are working towards.”

Woods isn't the only A&M-Commerce professor with a heavy hand in the DRPC. Dr. Gavin Johnson, the writing director and professor of rhetoric and composition, is also on the advisory board and is a founding member.

“Inherently, the DRPC hub is here at Texas A&M University-Commerce,” Woods said. “We must consider ethical issues of privacy, surveillance, and how we as educators and scholars can contribute to those conversations to empower and educate our students.”

Keep up with Dr. Woods and the DRPC by checking out the DRPC website and following them on Facebook and X!

Featured photo © ipopba | Adobe Stock