a feminist technology blog

Month: December 2010

CNN: Online Sharing, the rock n’ roll of the digital generation

I was apparently CNN’s go-to privacy researcher last week as I’m heavily quoted in this (pretty good) piece on young people and sharing:

Alice Marwick, a social-media researcher for Microsoft Research, predicts that the stereotype of young people oversharing online may be starting to fade.

“I think that, a few years ago when this concern was really at a peak, the people who were judging young people for their online information practices weren’t really using social media themselves,” she said. “As we see more people in their 40s and 50s and 60s get involved … I think we’re going to see much less of this generational schism than we do today.”

Marwick is quick to point out, though, that age might not be the best way to judge attitudes, and aptitude, regarding digital privacy.

“Someone’s level of education, their access to technology in the home — those types of things are going to have more of an effect on their comfort level than their age,” she said.

This is part of my campaign to eradicate “generations” rhetoric, which I truly dislike. It encourages moral panics about what the “kids” are doing, it paints extremely diverse populations with a single brush, and it often takes educated, middle-class experience and universalizes it. You tell me all young people are super tech-savvy and I’ll show you a class of NYU students where 50% didn’t know you could edit Wikipedia, and one asked me what a browser was; and you tell me all young people are lazy, video-game addicted social deviants and I’ll show you a kid from a working-class family who’s addicted to 4Chan, very active in his church, and aspiring to be a US Marine. We do young people a disservice when we make broad claims about them and then attempt to regulate their behavior based on this. Tip of the hat to article author Doug Gross for acknowledging this diversity.

CNN on “the end of privacy”

John Sutter from CNN interviewed me for this story that provides a broad overview of information-sharing concerns. I think it’s fairly balanced, and I’m also happy that this quote made it in:

“The teenagers and 20-somethings we talk to — a huge aspect of their social life goes on online,” Marwick said. “Not participating in online life is like not having a phone or not going to parties — it’s choosing to opt out of an important part of their social community. It’s not really a choice for many young people.”

You’ll notice that I relay an anecdote that danah blogged about: a pair of girls we interviewed who used the “super logoff” and “whitewashing” methods. “Super logoff” is deleting your account upon exiting Facebook; “whitewashing” is deleting comments, pictures, and Wall posts after they’ve been up for a few hours. While we’ve only interviewed a few teens who’ve exhibited these behaviors, they’re part of a continuum of creative privacy-protection strategies that includes maintaining multiple profiles, “social steganography,” or posting coded messages that are meant only for a select group, switching from Facebook to SMS when appropriate, deleting one’s Facebook account, and a host of other permutations and possibilities. I’m glad that people are beginning to understand that participating in online social life doesn’t– at all– mean the participants “don’t care about privacy.”

This is the first of a series, and I’m very curious to see where CNN goes with it.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén