Teens Want More Privacy Online Too

Despite what the Facebook CEO and other tech luminaries seem to think, a new poll shows 15- to 18-year-olds are just as worried about the vanishing world of online privacy as older generations.

teen closing curtain

Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg suggested that privacy was no longer a social norm. "People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people," the Facebook CEO said at the Crunchie awards in January. However, a new Zogby poll shows that younger Internet users are far less comfortable with the state of our privacy online than Zuckerberg's statement suggests.

The results of the poll, which surveyed 400 teens aged 15 to 18, suggest users are looking for more control over their personal information. The vast majority of teens understood that search engines (88%) and social networks (79%) were tracking their browsing habits for ads. However, many were not sure whether their data was secure: More than half of the respondents said they either did not think their personal information was private or were not sure.

A whopping 92% of teens surveyed believed they should be able to request the deletion of all their personal information held by a search engine, social network, or marketing company. In the age of Google, the idea of removing every scrap of your personal data from the Internet feels like a pipe dream. But the sentiment is clear: Users want more control over their information. About 85% of respondents also said search engines and social networks should be required to get permission before collecting data, and the same percentage said they'd be more likely to read a site's terms and conditions if they were written in shorter or clearer language. (Meanwhile, 45% of teens said they do read terms and conditions— but does anyone actually believe nearly half of all 15- to 18-year-olds are scanning pages of online legalese?)

The poll was commissioned by privacy advocacy non-profit Common Sense Media, which will release the report today in Washington alongside FCC chair Julius Genachowski and FTC chair Jon Liebowitz, two agency heads who will be intimately involved in privacy policy in the coming years. Zogby also ran a separate poll of adults on privacy, the results of which very closely mirrored the teen survey. Despite what Zuckerberg thinks of our evolving habits online, whether you're 15 or 50, social norms on privacy don't seem to be changing at all.

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  • smkim

    I don't think you should look at "any twitter/facebook stream" as evidence that teens do not care about privacy. The issue is more complex than that and so are teens. While the way teens share info may be vastly different than their predecessors, to make blanket statements that "privacy is no longer a social norm" is just false and dangerous. Just ask any Rutgers student.

  • kathykate

    Poll all you want, but the actions speak quite differently. They know the "right" answer to the question, but proceed to do otherwise, again and again and again. And are then shocked when consequence appear to their on-line actions. Privacy just isn't an issue to these growing brains and social identities. They simply don't get it. That said, as they emerge from HS to college, my oldest kid has remarked about privacy issues several times as of late: "Wow, that's just creepy."

  • Rob Day

    This poll is a joke. What is the polling company's ulterior motives?

    To go out claiming that teens want more privacy on the basis that they would like an option to delete their info is ludicrous. It is even more telling that this poll claims that 55% of teens read the terms and conditions on web sites. That is absolutely not true.

    For evidence that teens do not truly care about their privacy take a look at any twitter/facebook steam from one or a bunch. Instead of a private message to make plans with a friend it's plastered all over someone's wall post. Every update reveals where they are, what they are doing, whom they are doing it with, and for how many cookies.

    People's words and people's actions are two completely different things. Ask someone (me included) if they value privacy and you should get a yes reply. However, watch that same person's actions and you will see the exact opposite. I believe it is the actions that Mark is referring to when he claims that privacy is no longer a social norm.