The Generation Gap – Privacy isn’t what it used to be

The privacy debate has been ongoing for years now, but through both participating in it, and through observing those participating in it, I have reached a perspective on the whole thing. What has become apparent to me is that there is a generational difference between those lobbying for increased privacy rights versus those who are happy with less.

I am generation X, by definition, although just barely as I am on the latter end of that range, so perhaps you could consider me more borderline Y, or ‘Millennial’ to use its preferred term. The X & Y generations grew up with technology, the internet, television, full colour media, global connectivity and openness of information, and as such, our perspective of what is private is different to those generations that came before us. I, for instance, have no issue with putting content on various social networking sites to share my life with my friends, relatives and loved ones, wherever in the world they may be, and am happy to take an extroverted view of life.

What is apparent to me is that the generations that came before me, didn’t have this exposure at a young age, and in fact came through the secretive, cold war era, where espionage, secrecy and war were the flavours of the hour. This combined with a more insular, local view of the world, meant that your privacy was very important, and must be maintained at all times- thus making it easy to guard.

When you apply this psychological difference between generations to the privacy debate, you start to see that those lobbying for increased privacy on the internet, and greater control are typically older than those who are less worried about the issue. Now, what I am not saying here is that the younger generation does not care about its privacy, as that is simply not true, but what I am saying is that the level of privacy we want is typically different to those lobbying to change it.

For instance, as I mentioned before, I am happy to upload a photo of myself with my family on Facebook, for my friends to see, and I am happy, if, after they click like or comment, that their friends can see it also. I am not so insular in my perspective of the world that I only want my immediate close friends to experience my life with me, after all with that perspective how would your circle of friends ever grow?

The key generational difference here is that once upon a time, Privacy was an “opt out” decision, i.e. your information was private until you shared it, now however, Privacy is an “opt in” decision, i.e. unless you explicitly state it’s private and consciously apply controls to its dissemination, it will inevitably become public.

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