Body Piercing & Tatoos Aside, Millenials Will Care About Privacy
By suncpo on Mar 12, 2007
I have spent some time thinking about the "new" generation of Netizens who are cited as careless at best and completely clueless at worst about their own data privacy.
While I tend to agree with those that believe that privacy is a dead concept if we define privacy as the functional equivalent of secrecy, attempting to offer a compatible alternative point of view has been a worthy cause for me over the last several years.
Secrecy is not realistic nor particularly desirable-- never was except for rare breeds of hermetic cultures, but privacy-- the ability to maintain and control value for various persona elements-- is. Context & balance are king here. I do think too much surveillance is not only wrong socially, too much without a decent plan or management scheme seems to be a waste of time and resources. We are not any closer to physical security if we have a ton of junky unorganized data points in the basement, but we do acquire digital mildew that is just as sticky & hard to remove as the real stuff.
I have been talking to teen & tween experts to help us better understand how the Millennial generation really experiences putting their data out there and how they seek to protect themselves-- these folks, after all, are the Red Shift Company customers.
From what I have learned thus far from talking to this community is that they treat their passwords like we treat our bank account numbers. They care about who is visiting their social networking site and care very deeply about who is IMing them. (That they don't particularly understand nor protect their credit scores makes sense in context.) They care very much about the privacy of these data elements & their roles may not be as clearly defined as corporate roles, but they do have a hierarchy of who is allowed access to what.
Security for them is enforced thru IM or SMS flamethrowing & the techno equivalent to shunning where, for example, the cheating boyfriend finds himself off of the buddy lists of the cool girls & so on.
The other interesting thing about all these writings about the "new" generation fail to take into account that teens have \*always\* tried to stand out, to be daredevils in their quest for acceptance and for divergence from the old fogey generations. That they want to send pictures of themselves around doing naughty things is the 2007 version of bragging at a party-- far more lasting damage potentially & certainly a much wider circle of damage but that likely only makes it more fun for the rebellious set.
To prove the "new" generation cares about their brand of privacy, try this thought experiment: ask a 5 year old if they went to the potty today. Chances are they'll give you a straight answer without blinking an eye (you may get more details than you really desire as well.) It's not because they are stupid, or feel like keeping this data secret is a hopeless task or that they realize that their parents will eventually find out directly or indirectly. It's just not something that is a secret or that is private personally identifiable information.
Now ask a teenager with a networking page & her own blog who regularly reveals a ton of PII that same question. Chances are she's rather live in a hermit cave than relinquish \*that\* bit of personal data.
All in, the data I've seen makes me believe that privacy's not dead & never will be so long as individuals seek to remain individuals or that organizations derive value from interacting with humans who work for them or buy things from them or vote for them.
Protected data lifecycles for whatever various elements our customers hold most dear are the things that separate pure secrecy (impossible) from enterprise privacy (possible, just hard).
Here's the bit that triggered this chain of thought:
> The Transparent Society and Its Clueless Adult Enemies
>When David Brin published /The Transparent Society/
>in 1999, surveillance was something other people did to you. Brin made
>the radical argument that surveillance was technologically inevitable--a
>notion privacy advocates found unthinkable--and that the best protection
>for individuals lay not in trying to limit the right to collect data on
>other people but in making sure that surveillance didn't become the
>privilege of an unwatched elite. Everyone should be able to watch
>everyone, including government officials; hence, the "transparent
>society." People /hated/ that argument, because it accepted surveillance.
>How 1999. Another approach is simply to ignore old ideas about privacy
>and make your private life public. In /New York/ magazine, Emily
>today's young people are doing exactly that and, in the process,
>completely redefining the idea of privacy.
> [W]hat we're discussing is something more radical if only because it
> is more ordinary: the fact that we are in the sticky center of a
> vast psychological experiment, one that's only just begun to show
> results. More young people are putting more personal information out
> in public than any older person ever would--and yet they seem
> mysteriously healthy and normal, save for an entirely different
> definition of privacy. From their perspective, it's the extreme
> caution of the earlier generation that’s the narcissistic thing. Or,
> as Kitty put it to me, "Why not? What’s the worst that's going to
> happen? Twenty years down the road, someone's gonna find your
> picture? Just make sure it's a great picture."
> And after all, there is another way to look at this shift. Younger
> people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to
> have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an
> illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each
> time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard,
> that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The
> NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public
> whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.
> So it may be time to consider the possibility that young people who
> behave as if privacy doesn’t exist are actually the sane people, not
> the insane ones. For someone like me, who grew up sealing my diary
> with a literal lock, this may be tough to accept. But under current
> circumstances, a defiant belief in holding things close to your
> chest might not be high-minded. It might be an artifact--quaint and
> naïve, like a determined faith that virginity keeps ladies pure. Or
> at least that might be true for someone who has grown up "putting
> themselves out there" and found that the benefits of being
> transparent make the risks worth it....
> In essence, every young person in America has become, in the literal
> sense, a public figure. And so they have adopted the skills that
> celebrities learn in order not to go crazy: enjoying the attention
> instead of fighting it--and doing their own publicity before
> somebody does it for them.
>As an old fogy, I find this behavior weird. Aside from the old-fashioned
>notion that some parts of life don't belong in public, I don't want to
>live in a small town where everyone knows everyone's business, and I
>wouldn't want my teenage persona following me around forever. But there
>is a certain kind of logic here.
>The problem comes not from old-fashioned embarrassment but from adult
>policing. As Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for
>Individual Rights in Education
>Officer Will Creeley write in the Boston /Phoenix/
>their speech codes to attack students for what they post on Facebook and
>other online sites:
> Students, be warned: the college of your choice may be watching you,
> and will more than likely be keeping an eye on you once you enter
> the hallowed campus gates. America’s institutions of higher
> education are increasingly monitoring students’ activity online and
> scrutinizing profiles, not only for illegal behavior, but also for
> what they deem to be inappropriate speech.
> Contrary to popular misconceptions, the speech codes, censorship,
> and double standards of the culture-wars heyday of the '80s and '90s
> are alive and kicking, and they are now colliding with the latest
> explosion of communication technology. Sites like Facebook and
> MySpace are becoming the largest battleground yet for student free
> speech. Whatever campus administrators' intentions (and they are
> often mixed), students need to know that online jokes, photos, and
> comments can get them in hot water, no matter how effusively their
> schools claim to respect free speech. The long arm of campus
> officialdom is reaching far beyond the bounds of its buildings and
> grounds and into the shadowy realm of cyberspace.
>Like Nussbaum's /New York/ piece, this is a must-read article
>online communication erodes the boundary between private conversation
>and public speech, the repressive nature of speech codes is becoming
>more and more apparent. (Take a look at this scary example.
>They are, in fact, designed to squelch free speech--to prevent students
>from saying what they think, from using irony or humor in ways that
>might be taken as offensive, and to police not just speech but,
>ultimately, thought itself. (I serve on the board of FIRE, which is a
>It's watching the watchers.)