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    Op-Ed at Star (Canada): Facing up to the generational privacy divide

    Canadian tech legal expert Michael Geist writes in the Star about the just-concluded Data Protection and Privacy Commissioner Conference in Jerusalem.

    The conference focused on the perception of a growing privacy divide between generations, with older and younger demographics seemingly adopting sharply different views on the importance of privacy.

    Many acknowledged that longstanding privacy norms are being increasingly challenged by the massive popularity of social networks that encourage users to share information that in a previous generation would have never been made publicly available for all the world to see. […]

    The response from many participants – both privacy experts and those studying online youth – was that privacy remains an important value. Recent studies in the United States and New Zealand both found that people want it all: robust, interactive social networks and privacy protection.

    Experts pointed to two explanations to reconcile the desire to be openly online and maintain privacy. First, they noted that online social networks are merely social spaces that replicate what we commonly do offline, such as chatting with friends, gossiping with co-workers, and connecting with family.

    In the offline world, these activities rarely raise privacy concerns since sharing photos or discussing recent activities is not perceived to be a privacy issue. Once those activities move online, the privacy implications can become dramatically different. […]

    Second, privacy experts argued that social media companies make it too difficult for users to protect their privacy by establishing open privacy settings as the default. Facebook and other social media sites give users the ability to adjust those settings, yet the default settings have steadily pushed users toward greater openness, leaving hundreds of millions of users with the open privacy settings that Facebook selected for them.

    Read the full column to learn about the three strategies that Geist says emerged at the conference to address “the twin goals of greater openness and protecting personal privacy.”

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