Digital citizenship, Where’s my passport?

Passport (pixabay)

As a citizen of a country you are entitled to a passport. “A passport gives an official document issued by a government, certifying the holder’s identity and citizenship and entitling them to travel under its protection to and from foreign countries.”(Oxford Languages,2011). Now that we have unbekownst to ourselves evolved as Digital Citizens what protection is available to users as we roam the WWW freely. They answer to that question is a as simple as there is little or no protection for you. As a digital citizen we have to take control into our own hands and ensure we are protecting ourselves and vulnerable people.

The influence the WWW and in particular social media websites have is enormous. If we look at Brexit, as an example would the UK have left the European Union if Facebook ads hadn’t targeted individuals with flase adverts claiming for example Turkey is joining the EU, and there would be mass migration into the UK(Carole Cadwalladr, 2019). A 1% change in opinion and there would have been no Brexit. So it is possible that the voters were swayed based on the data presented on their newsfeeds. This shows us an example of the power these tech companies have over us all and it shows the lack of legislation as Mark Zuckerberg simply refused to be questioned when asked!

Technology has some amazing benefits which should not be forgotten and has opened the world up to a cohort of people who would not have the ability to make world wide connections with people. However, it would be remiss not to inform those users who don’t even realise that we are being commercialised by these companies who use our data to manipulate us for their own agendas.

Eli Pariser (2011) did a ted talk on Filter bubbles a decade ago to try and warn users about the bubble we find ourselves in online and the impact this will have on democracy. We can see from recent trends is these bubbles are now targeting individuals not only for advertising but for political means. If two people were to run the same google search their results would be customised and whilst at a glance this is useful it can cause people to become engrained in their own silo and lose the ability to comprehend data that doesn’t agree with their opinion. (,2021). This issue needs to be addressed by governments all over the world it simply cannot continue.

There are some social activits such as Tim Berners Lee who founded W3C a web standards organisation in 1994, the the World Wide Web Foundation in 2009 to help increase the potential of the web to benefit humanity. This still wasn’t enough to keep the tech giants accountable and Tim has since founded to promote the use of an MIT Developed open source platform called Solid. It aims to make users control their own data online based on existing technologies used in credit card transactions online such as Verisign. (, 2020) Will this be enough we have to hope it will.

We as users need to become active citizens and take control as much as we can ourselves. We need to teach our children in school to be digitally literate. So the next generation does not face the same digital manipulation as we are faced with. It is as important I believe as Math and English. One definition of Digital Literacy is:-

“How we should act when we are using digital tools, interacting with others online, and what should be taught to help the next generation be better stewards of this technology.” (2019)

With the ever increasing invasion of our privacy and the increase of datavelliance and most recently the need to carryout some of our civic transactions online eg. Local property tax declaration to Irish Revenue Commissioners. Who can you trust with your data. A 2019 breech of data for me was with the Teaching Council. What redress was I entitled to none just told my name ppsn and email address had been accessed, if another couple of pieces of information were made available about me and it would have been a hackers dream come true.

Digital Literacy is one of three elements we require to navigate the WWW. (Pangrazio and Sefton-Green, 2021) The other two elements are Digital Rights and Digital Citizenship. Lets look at the concept of a citizen this is the relationship between a person and their state. (Bennet,2007) speaks about “dutiful citizen” who is fully informed and obliged to get involved in electoral processes. This is what we need in this information age. Lets take the example of the US presidential election when Donald Trump won by alleged purchase of targeted advertising paid for by Russia. He vehemently denied this was even possible until he lost the subsequent election and accused Biden of doing the same. It was the case that this occurred in either election are the elections even valid as not everyone had access to the same dataset.

Currently, digital rights are not a set of rights in and of themselves, but are related to other human rights, particularly freedom of expression and the right to privacy in online and digital environments.

Hutt, 2015

Due to the pace of change and levels of access to the internet across the world ensuring people have the same rights online as they do offline is a near impossible task. This does not mean however we shouldn’t try. Digital rights, Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship in combination is the way forward and the next time your online you might think of looking a bit closer at those terms and conditions or turn on private browsing to take back some of your power and more importantly your data !


Carole Cadwalladr, 2019. Facebooks role in Brexit- and the threat to democracy. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 December 2021]., 2021. How Filter Bubbles Distort Reality: Everything You Need to Know. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 December 2021].

Hutt, R. (2015). What are your digital rights? World Economic Forum Articles. Available at:[Accessed 14th December 2021].

Littlejohn, A., Beetham, H. & McGill, L. (2012). Learning at the digital frontier: a review of digital literacies in theory and practice. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning28(6), 547–556. Available at <> [Accessed 8 December 2021].

Oxford Languages(2011) Oxford English Dictionary. Available at <> [Accessed 15 December 2021].

Pangrazio, L. and Sefton-Green, J., 2021. Digital Rights, Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy: What’s the Difference?. Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research, [online] 10(1), p.15. Available at: <> [Accessed 16 December 2021]. 2020. Tim Berners-Lee. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 16 December 2021].