Friday, May 14, 2010

Online Privacy Concerns: Are Kids Too Plugged In?

I happened to be reading on CNN an article about Facebook's privacy woes.  Now, I am not going to go into detail about mainstream media and the fact they are always at least a week behind the technological times, hell that was discussed on GeekyClown last week and has been all over the Internet since the 'Like' debacle was announced, but I was appalled at the comments people were leaving about the article.  The famous, "the kids today are too plugged in" bullshit that comes out every time that one of these articles comes out.

Let me start out by saying this, people who think that they are smarter than the younger generations by avoiding current technological trends are absolutely kidding themselves and are prematurely patting themselves on the back.  What the hell does "too plugged in" even mean?  We are too dependent on computers?  Welcome to 2010.  Is the thinking here that computers are a fad?  Do they think like Stoll's 1995 article (which I discuss here - that the whole Internet thing is not really useful?

One commenter said, "if you give your information to a big corporation, what do you think is going to happen?"  It made me think back to 1999 when my dad told me, "I won't give my credit card information over the Internet."  I replied, "why?"  And was given a quick and simple, "hackers."  See, he watched '60 Minutes' or some other news show that tries its hardest to scare the hell out of people who are naive enough to believe that anytime you are on the Web there are a group of hackers waiting around the bend like pissed off villagers on the hunt for Frankenstein.  That being said, my dad would have no problem ordering concert tickets over the phone and giving his credit card number to the pothead, eighteen-year-old on the other end.

Anyone who believes keeping themselves offline isn't risking their personal information either are kidding themselves or has paid cash for every purchase they have ever made, has never been to school, or visited a hospital.  Big business has been mining personal information forever - about as long as their security measures have been breached.  How many times have you received a letter letting you know that a drive had been misplaced, a disgruntled employee took data, or "oops, someone got into our system" and you should keep an eye on your credit report to look for identity thieves?  Facebook may expose a personal detail or two that I would prefer not have out there, but it doesn't let people apply for credit accounts using my information.

It is this holier than thou mentality that makes people feel superior for not being part of the Internet community and help them to compensate for the fact that they refuse to learn anything that may make them just the slightest bit more tech savvy.  The good news for us, hopefully those people will continue to stay off the net.  Keeping them offline will keep a few trolls from posting on boards, a few Facebook stalkers at bay, and a whole lot of spam and forwards from being sent.  

Perhaps we should rewrite the old phrase, "if it's too loud, you're too old" to "if you think I'm too plugged in, you're too old."  Not necessarily old in years but old in thinking.

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