Do under 25s care about privacy?
By Sahra Wouters Okeili, Law student at Vrije Universiteit Brussel
More than a decade ago Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that privacy was no longer the ‘social norm’ meaning privacy would be dead and forgotten, was he right? Is privacy truly buried? Before even asking if under 25s care about privacy we should be asking what they interpret as privacy.
Google’s definition of privacy is the state of being free from the public eye, meaning not being observed or disturbed by other people. The under 25s can perceive privacy as keeping things hidden from the public, meaning not sharing or posting. Caring about it or not, privacy is (still) an essential protected element of a person’s life hence why it is included in the charter of the European Convention on Human Rights.(1)
If we look at the lives led by the under 25s, we would assume they do not care about privacy due to their use of social media. There is without a doubt a person from the under 25s category who is making an Instagram or a Snapchat story right now, at this exact moment you are reading this essay.
The under 25s love to share their lives, their stories, their good days even their bad ones at times. It all makes life that much more enjoyable, to know that x person was at Pizza Hut wearing a floral dress on the 3rd of April at 2 pm and chose a pizza pepperoni with extra olives. We can’t loathe them because of it, new technologies are a major fact of their lives and for them, social media is simply a tool to extend their social interaction.(2)
But don’t be fooled by their use of social media, under 25s do care about privacy maybe just not in the way older people would.
It is not about what and how much they share with the online world, it is about whom they share it with. Them having the power to control who gets a look into their lives and therefore protect their privacy. They would for example arrange their social media profiles to allow a selected few people access while denying access to others. By controlling it they are protecting it and to protect is to care is it not? Once one is aware of their lack of control over how they are seen by others, people of all ages will always assert their desire for privacy in the strongest way.(3)
Although I would say under 25s care less about data privacy and more about socially oriented forms of privacy.(4) They recognize privacy as a form of modulating boundaries and controlling data in a social context.(5) Under 25s are less concerned with companies accessing and storing their data for targeted advertising than the posts, likes and shares that might be seen by people who have power over them like teachers, parents, college admissions officer, job admissions, etc. The young teen would protect their privacy more from their mother than from Facebook so to speak. Ultimately, young people are concerned about getting into trouble and not about companies spying on them.(6)
Nonetheless, with the evolution of technology, AI, and the better understanding of the current internet environment that under 25s are gaining, they seem to understand the importance of privacy, which makes them wary about it. To know their faces are getting scanned daily, their pictures are getting stored whether it be on iCloud or Google Photos even when been deleted, is something to not take lightly. Besides most of today’s crimes and felonies are done by using information shared on social media. The under 25s are well aware of the dangers of social media. They know the consequences of oversharing information on the internet like an address or a phone number etc. can be serious and risky.
Harassment, threats, and stalking would be a few examples of those potential consequences. Under 25s do care about their privacy considering they know that it guarantees their safety which will always be a priority.
To elevate the care of privacy with the under 25s, it would be useful to receive education on privacy and handling our social media at school because it is at school that we start engaging.
There is also the element of mental health that is getting more attention from the generation under 25s than that of the older generation. The youth are talking more openly about mental health whereas the older generation made it much more a taboo subject. We all know how social media can have an effect on our mental state, under 25s are trying to protect it by keeping things more private, because how to protect your mental state better than stepping away from the screen and the never-ending flow of data.
Mental health is one of the big reasons under 25s care about their privacy, it is a way to keep sane in the middle of these social media times.
To circle back to our question, do under 25s care about privacy? Yes, they do even with their use of social media and the not minding of targeted advertisements, since at the end of the day they try to be in control of it all.