After talking about privacy and anonymity in class today I couldn’t help but think about how there is a general sense that our generation doesn’t care about privacy. Think about it. Our grandparents, parents and even the media thinks that our generation doesn’t value privacy. With the rising popularity and exponential growth of sites such as Twitter and Facebook, all sites which ask us voluntarily give up our information, it’s reasonable that they think this. Today’s class had me wondering about whether or not this might have some truth to it. Have Facebook and Twitter made us more careless about our information and the internet? Every so often we hear the anecdotes about those teens that post racy photos depicting their dangerous (and often illegal) escapades. It’s no wonder we are known as the “careless generation.”
Despite the mounting “evidence” I don’t believe that our generation cares any less about privacy than the baby boomer generation. In fact, recent research shows that this is far from the truth. Researchers at the University of California – Berkeley did a 2010 study comparing if young adults cared less about online privacy than their parents. What they found is similar to my sentiments.
“With important exceptions, large percentages of young adults are in harmony with older Americans when it comes to sensitivity about online privacy and policy suggestions,” said the study. The paper then goes on to detail how young adults have refused to give information they thought was too personal to businesses, how we as a generation believe that the law should require websites to delete stored information and that there should be a law that gives people the right to know all the information that websites know about them. These don’t sound like the sentiments of a careless generation to me. Instead, it demonstrates how informed we are about our online identities and rights.
The same findings are reinforced with the numbers. According to the study, 82 percent of young adults refuse to give out personal information to businesses (compared to 85 percent of those over 65) and that 40 percent of both young adults and older adults believe that execs should face jail time for illegally using a persons personal information.
These numbers only aid in disproving the general knowledge of a careless generation X. There are two reasons why our generation does not have the best track record when it comes to online privacy. One, which is explored briefly in the study, is that we have too much faith in the idea that the government will protect our online identities. The second is that as young people we have a skewed sense of risk assessment. What our parents did in the ‘50s to “break the rules” is what we are doing, except now we have a way to document it.
With the growth of the internet, the world is adjusting and just because we use the internet more freely does not mean that Generation X doesn’t care about their privacy.