Friday, April 16, 2010

Newsflash: New Study Indicates Young People DO Care About Privacy

Well isn't this good timing?! In my past few posts I have been asserting that people do, young included, care about privacy. The issue isn't that people aren't concerned with privacy, as corporate interests that profit off sharing and selling our private information would like us to all believe (I'm looking at you Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc.), the issue is proper and user friendly standards do not yet exist on the web to make it easier to choose privacy and protect ones data.

Now, a new study by researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania indicate younger adults DO want increased privacy and have views similar to those of their elders, even with social networks encouraging them to share more online.

In a recent post I compared this dilemma regarding privacy with that faced by those hoping the public will also become more environmentally conscious, writing:

"People want to, if enabled, to recycle, to drive more efficient cars, and to even use solar energy in their homes. BUT, not if its made overly difficult, or costly, and if "systems" aren't in place, usually through law, that make it easy, logical, and practical, they won't.

In the case of the environment, its the automakers, big oil, big coal, nuclear, and others.
When it comes to privacy, it’s the HUGE money that can be made off our data.

The fact is people want, if enabled, to protect their privacy and control their data. BUT, not if it’s made difficult, confusing, or time consuming.

And this is why new rules, laws are so desperately needed for cyberspace...If we are given an easy to use and understand "system" (i.e. laws) that allows us to protect our data, share it only through opting in, then we will. If it’s like solving a Rubik’s Cube to do so, we won't.

The good news is it takes very little to create such "systems" that enable us to make better life choices, for ourselves as individuals, and for the society as a whole. The fight is rarely in the practicality of the laws, or system itself, but rather in the corporate interests that are fighting change...because that change might undercut their profits.

So if we value privacy as a social good (which it is), and a fundamental liberty and right, then we MUST put rules and laws in place that protect it as such. We are told by the same interests that profit off our information that privacy is dead, and people don't care about it anymore. Well, that's easy to say when you are the ones developing the complicated and difficult to find privacy settings consumers have to deal with in order to make money off of that very "complication".

Now let's get to the study, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"The data show that they and older adults are more alike on many privacy topics than they are different," the researchers concluded.

For example, 82 percent of respondents ages 18 to 24 and 84 percent ages 25 to 34 said they have refused to provide information to a company because they thought it was too personal or not necessary. The percentage was 85 percent for people 65 and older.

And 84 percent of those 18 to 24 believed their permission should be sought before someone uploaded a photo or video of them, statistically close to the 88 percent or more for people older than 45 who had the same belief.

There were differences that showed up when respondents were asked whether a company should be fined more or less than $2,500 for illegally using personal information. While at least 76 percent of Americans 45 or older picked more than $2,500, only 54 percent of people 18 to 24 did the same.

"Public policy agendas should therefore not start with the proposition that young adults do not care about privacy and thus do not need regulations and other safeguards," the researchers said.

The results reflect how younger people are less likely to view institutions such as Facebook as a source of risk for privacy problems and may be less aware of privacy laws than older adults, Hoofnagle said.

Facebook, which has more than 400 million members, has particularly come under fire for changes in its privacy settings that placed more personal information in public.

Click here to read more.

What makes this study so important is its paramount that we shift the burden from the individual trying to protect his/her privacy and onto the company that is storing, sharing or selling it. While this seems like a no brainer, more and more, whether its the Smart Grid, behavioral marketing on the net, or social networking sites, the debate has centered on the opt-in versus opt-out principles, and which should be the rule of thumb.

Obviously this study makes it ABUNDANTLY clear that the opt-in standard isn't only right in terms of legal control over ones information, but its what people overwhelmingly WANT! Something to remember as we watch these privacy debates progress...particularly out there in cyberspace in the information age...

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