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    Washington Post: Teens click past privacy concerns

    The Washington Post reports on teens and privacy online, finding that teens often zoom past the issue of data privacy:

    At an age [13] when his parents won’t let him go to the mall alone and in an era when he would never open up to a stranger, [Scott Fitzsimones], who lives in Phoenix, already has a growing dossier accumulating on the Web. And while Congress has passed laws to protect the youngest of Internet users from sharing much information about themselves, once those children become teens, the same privacy rules no longer apply. […]

    The federal government has a history of regulating media to protect children under age 12. Examples are the 1998 children’s Internet privacy law and television advertising limits that were set for broadcasters and cable networks in 1990. And recent problems with Internet privacy and security — such as last week’s breaches at Sony’s online gaming network — have led to renewed calls for regulations to protect consumers. For the first time, the White House has called for Internet privacy rules.

    But experts on adolescent development say youths between 13 and 18 deserve special attention. Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said last week they are working on a bill to limit the collection of personal information about teens and prevent targeted marketing to them. […]

    With few restraints, teens are creating digital records that also shape their reputations offline. All the status updates, tweets and check-ins to specific locations can be reviewed by prospective employers, insurance companies and colleges.

    Web firms say sensitive data can be collected only with permission and that parents can set controls on phones and desktop computers to help keep teens out of the public eye. But for teens like Fitzsimones, the opportunities to share information online are so frequent and routine that they hardly even stop to think about them. […]

    A 2009 paper by neurobiologists and marketing experts at the University of California at Irvine reported that teens were more susceptible than adults to online advertising and take greater risks with their information online. If a group of friends is meeting for a movie at the AMC Theatre in downtown D.C., for instance, a teen who badly wants to join may send out notice through a public status update — without thinking about the risks of disclosing that information to anyone who might be on a social networking site.

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