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.

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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.


About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.