As concerns over online security grow amid recent revelations around the NSA and its worldwide PRISM project, seemingly tapping the phones of the general public at large, people should be more worried about who is intercepting their online communications. Not so the youth of today, however says partner and digital director at Inkling, Jono Marcus.
Reading the response from teenagers in various online forums about Ed Snowden and the NSAs pursuit of him shows a demographic who think privacy is for wimps, or at least not for them. One poster on Virtual Teen Forum summed up the prevailing mood when he wrote:
"The point here is: the government is too large to worry about what any single person is up to. It has soooo many priorities that it is useless to feel like you are being spied on when there are millions of others whose privacy has been "violated". "
Most of my clients belong to the type of big global organisations and brands that young audiences would be expected to rebel against or at least avoid buying in to. These monoliths offer data hungry enticements popping-up on youngsters computers screens because good data makes them money. These brands passivley fight against the general clamour for teens to guard privacy. But in a world that increasingly puts a price tag on what can be gained for free, and rewards scarcity with only obscurity, is it any wonder youngsters take a similar view about their own personal data: "Why not share it, when you share you win". That attitude is that what they keep private can't work for them, whereas what they share might just benefit them.
Teens today have a potential shortcut to fame and money, through creating sharable content or a contagious personality in social media. They see success stories created from the act of being far from private in social media. Being private and relying on being "discovered" is pretty hard to monetize these days, and young people understand that innately through the hours put in on social networks. Teens are effectively untrained social network economists who see a real value in not worrying too much about privacy. Is it any wonder they don't take seriously authorities preaching to them about maintaining their privacy, when there seems to be so much to be gained by sharing. Especially, given the fact brands, governments, school (all adults in general) are very clearly trying to monitor, to pry, punish or sometimes monetize for themselves every move teenagers make. In fact, every click.
I think trying to get youngsters to be more judicious in what they share and sign-up to is fighting the tide, as they simply couldn't care less. The most talented teens should simply make the data they share work harder for them than it will for the brands and organisations that seek to use it. In return, brands must offer more to get more.