Are privacy tools enough?

As I went on Diana’s field trip through Facebook’s privacy controls on Wednesday, I wondered two things: Do digital natives understand the gravity of what and how much information they expose of themselves on the Internet? And secondly, although disclosed information can be filtered, do we ever take into account that our information is owned by the compannies offering the services we are using? Essentially, to what extent are digital natives aware of, and comfortable with, trading off their privacy for online services?

According to Born Digital, “Many Digital Natives incorrectly perceive that their conversations online are far more private than they are. In other words, there’s new incentive to post information about yourself online (social norms suggest that more information about yourself will attract more friends), but less of a check on your behavior (an innate sense of privacy, or someone telling you “don’t you dare go out dressed like that”). The result is that at no time in human history has information about a young person been more freely and publicly accessible to so many others.”

This quote indicates how DNs bring harm to themelves by disclosing information that should be private becausethey naively trust the system they are using to publish their data. In connection with privacy and safety, a great video was created to educate digital natives about the consequences of making information public through online means. This video was posted by AuntLee two weeks ago here at the DN Blog.

However, what about the issue of owning our infomation? True, Facebook enables users to control who is accessing their information, but will Facebook itself refrain from accessing our personal information?

When researching information for this post, I bumped into the Google Privacy Policy. As its publicly known, enterprises such as Google, Microsoft, AOL, etc., have access to all we do on the Internet. By reading the Google Privacy Policy, one understands that this information exists and the purpose of its use can be shifted anytime. So, again, we are obliged to trust in these enterprises to which we offer our personal information in exchange for the use of services. But what if something goes wrong either with the company or with the information?

As Palfrey and Gasser have discussed in Born Digital, DNs leave tracks, or “digital tatoos,” throughout cyberspace. Although the environments in which they do so are meant to be safe places for such procedures, creating a sense of trust between DNs and service providers, it incentivates a disclosure of personal information with no precedents. Meanwhile, means of tracking information gets more accurated, as it happens with this GPS localizer for instance. It is disturbing to observe kids who use this site accept the idea behind it, and have incorported these technologies into their daily lives.

As we can see, technology has been offering various ways of controlling and tagging people with a discourse that makes DNs understand these devices as harmless. What if this information is used differently from what we expect? What if data gets lost? What if a companny that holds your personal information is sold? Would you like to have your personal data sold with it?