The Next Generation’s Privacy Settings

Pew Privacy

Jared Keller summarizes findings from a new report by Pew and the Berkman Center for Internet Society:

The joint paper found that teenagers are sharing more and more personal information online: 91 percent of teenagers post at least one photo of themselves (up from 79 percent in 2006), while 71 percent post their school name (up from 49 percent), 53 percent post their email address (up from 29 percent), and 20 percent post their cell phone number (up from two percent). At the same time, teenagers are more and more cautious as to who sees this information: about 60 percent of teen Facebook users set their profiles to private (friends only), and most report high levels of confidence in their ability to manage their settings, with 56 percent of users noting that it’s “not difficult at all” to set privacy controls (while only eight percent say it’s “somewhat difficult”).

Danah Boyd comments:

My favorite finding of Pew’s is that 58% of teens cloak their messages either through inside jokes or other obscure references, with more older teens (62%) engaging in this practice than younger teens (46%). This is the practice that I’ve seen significantly rise since I first started doing work on teens’ engagement with social media. It’s the source of what Alice Marwick and I describe as “social steganography” in our paper on teen privacy practices.

While adults are often anxious about shared data that might be used by government agencies, advertisers, or evil older men, teens are much more attentive to those who hold immediate power over them – parents, teachers, college admissions officers, army recruiters, etc. To adults, services like Facebook that may seem “private” because you can use privacy tools, but they don’t feel that way to youth who feel like their privacy is invaded on a daily basis.

Graphic from Pew.