The Future of Privacy: your future


Living life in public is the new default many of us have been experimenting with in recent years. It’s amazing how readily we have adapted to sharing our daily activities, thoughts and knowledge via social media. The consequences of this voluntary act of sharing and its impact on our privacy, is causing us to adjust our norms and our preparedness to be less private than we may once have been. Yet as danah boyd illustrated through her research of teenagers in – It’s complicated: the social lives of networked teens, young people are surprisingly selective as to what they make public.

We are living in the age of big data where once inconsequential information such as our purchasing habits are now being collected as an invisible, routine process. Where is it all heading? The Pew Research Center has recently released the report – The Future of Privacy: digital life in 2025 in which experts conclude that the struggle with our personal data and public profiles will extend through the next decade as attitudes and legislation adjust to the new landscape.

Some expect that governments and corporations will continue to expand upon the already prevalent tracking of people’s personal lives and the data-basing and magnetisation of personal information. Others expect it may be possible that new approaches will emerge to enable individuals to better control their identities and exercise more choice about who knows what.

There is much food for thought in this report as it looks towards the next 10 years.  Read the report…

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Privacy in networked publics

RMIT’s School of Media and Communication recently hosted a talk by Dr. danah boyd, an influential researcher into the way young people make use of social media and technology. The talk, which is available for download,  was a fascinating insight into danah’s work with young people. danah explored the ways teens make use of social media and their attitudes to privacy in what are essentially public spaces.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of danah’s talk was the concept of teens ‘hiding in plain sight’. Teens used to socialise at shopping centres and malls, but now much of their socialising and ‘social grooming’ happens online. To many teens sharing is an important aspect of staying connected with their friends and danah’s interviews expose the very different attitudes that teens can have to privacy.

Interestingly, danah has found that although teenagers may share publicly on sites such as Facebook, this doesn’t always mean they expect this information to be viewed or commented on by everyone (particularly their parents or teachers). Several of danah’s interview subjects revealed ingenious ways of using both structural tricks or codes to protect their privacy whilst still sharing with their friends.  If we think back to our own childhoods, many of us probably used similar tricks to communicate with our friends when older people were around. It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

To find out more about danah’s work (including the reason for her lower case name) visit her website, or follow her blog. In a time where the media often resort to scaremongering when exploring how young people use social media, danah’s research provides some balance to this very important discussion.