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The New Privacy Advocates

Last week, I wrote of a new concern with privacy arising and data archiving that young adults now have in “she never wants an electric car”. Regular commenter Michaela notes

My sample of two (my daughters 13 and nearly 16) have a very different point of view. . . . They are big Facebook and MySpace fans. They say It’s a trade off worth the giving up privacy to keep up with their friends. . . .they are much more aware of it than most kids (or adults for that matter). They don't care. Their only concern is really keeping info from Mom and Dad :).

Michaela is certainly aware of the issues, and has explained things to her daughters. This also described my daughters at that age—but things change a lot. Soon they will get burned by more than Mom, and they will have a keen understanding and awareness of privacy.

Living in a college town, one can see this new progression. The freshman come in as digital libertines, sharing their information with everyone. In the next few years, they will hear through the grapevine of friends who missed out on an internship because of Facebook. Scholarship athletes have been tossed off the team because the coach saw the tagged pictures from the big party. Even getting up early to de-tag pictures may not be enough – coach may have reviewed his team even earlier. Some of the best parties are no declared “cell-free zones”, but to little avail.

Last weekend, I read of someone, now nearly 30, whose high school buddies emptied their photo collections onto Facebook. These pictures of long ago parties now show up first for when potential employers search for her. She now begins each week search and de-tagging pictures of her long ago self from the net.

Like the former libertine who turns socially conservative, these formerly promiscuous with personal information become some of the most protective as they gain experience. Unlike the privacy advocates of old, they really understand how long a digital shadow they cast, and become fanatical about protecting their digital image and owning their own digital footprint.

They will not tolerate the so-called privacy of, for example, today’s Automated Metering. In many areas, the utility shares usage data with no one, including with the tenant except in ways that the utility controls. This is claimed to be in support of privacy. The new data-mining savvy consumer will demand direct control of this data themselves, and want to decide how and when it is data mined. They will trust neither the utility or the government to make these decisions for them.

Secondary school is a time of pushing many limits. It is at an age where Mom and Dad know little, about privacy or about dress. At as Mark Twain is said to have observed: “When I was fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have him around. When I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

Some of this generation will be remain digital libertines—but not many. Most will want their own data, will expect to control their own data, and their metadata as well. When in control, they will share it as they please.

Note: It was very tempting to use an extended analogy about tight clothes in middle school and knowledge about exactly where and when to flash a little lace at 30, but I controlled the impulse…

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Reader Comments (1)

I'm so proud to be a subject of a posting. And my kids would be appalled, so that's doubly fun. Luckily, for the most part, my kids postings are really very boring so far. I hope they learn their lesson without too much pain.

As to the note...I see you've met my middle schooler??? .:-)

September 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichaela

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