adults' views on privacy (new PEW report)

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by: danah boyd

PEW has a new report out on adults and privacy: Digital Footprints.
It’s a solid report on the state of adults’ perception of privacy wrt
the internet. Of course, what humors me is that adults are saying one
thing and doing another.

Adults are more likely than teens to have public profiles on SNSs.
60% of adults are not worried about how much information is available
about them online. (Of course, young adults are more likely than older
adults to believe it would be “very difficult” for someone to locate or
contact them.) 61% of adults do not bother to limit the amount of
information that can be found about them (including many who are
purportedly worried).

In other words, adults (and presumably there are parents in this
group) are telling teens to be careful online and restrict what
information they put up there while they themselves are doing little to
protect their own data.

This reminds me of adults who tell their kids never to meet
strangers online under any circumstances and then proceed to use online
dating sites and, rather than meet in public places, choose to go to
the stranger’s private residence. Adults need to think about safety too
– it’s not a story of binaries. The safe and practical approach is
somewhere between abstinence and uber risky behavior.

Both adults and children need to learn how to negotiate safety and
privacy in a meaningful and nuanced way. Adults need to socialize young
people into conscientious participation online, both wrt to privacy and
safety. You cannot simply wait until teens are 18 and then flip the
switch and say GO! This has dreadful and dangerous consequences.

Anyhow, I’m not doing justice to the PEW report. Read it yourself. It’s quite interesting and there’s great data and it’s well situated.

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