The generation that’s grown up posting their lives online wants a little privacy. That’s not what we might expect as we debate just how much access the government should have to our mobile and online lives.
But as it turns out, young people are much more complex than some may think when determining what personal information they want to share.
Sure, they’re as likely as ever to post photos of themselves online, as well as their location and even phone numbers — and assume that at least some of their information is shared among website providers — say those who track their high-tech habits. But as they approach adulthood, they’re also getting more adept at hiding and pruning their online lives.
Despite their propensity for sharing, many young adults also are surprisingly big advocates for privacy — in some cases, more than their elders.
That attitude showed up most recently in a poll done over the weekend for the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post. The poll, tied to the disclosure of broad federal surveillance, found that young adults were much more divided than older generations when asked if the government should tread on their privacy to thwart terrorism.
Fifty-one percent of young adults, age 18 to 29, said it was “more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy.”
But 45 percent said personal privacy was more important, even if it limited the ability to investigate possible terrorist threats.
In contrast, less than a third of adults, age 30 and older, told pollsters that preserving personal privacy was more important, while about two-thirds placed higher value on permitting terror investigations, regardless of privacy infringement.
The young adults were much more in line with their elders when asked about the government’s monitoring specific modes of communication. Pollsters found that a slight majority of adults — including 18- to 29-year-olds — said it was “acceptable” for the government to secretly obtain phone-call records.
But a similar slight majority also said it was “unacceptable” for the government to monitor everyone’s emails and online activity.