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Defining Privacy Across the Generations

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September 19, 2009

There’s an interesting discussion brewing out in Internet-land regarding President Obama’s advice to high schoolers regarding their use of Facebook. His opinion? Be careful what you post because it may come back to haunt you. Is he right or a bit behind the times?

In a Q&A earlier in the week at a Virginia High School Obama, prompted by a question regarding career paths, cautioned a group of ninth graders about the potential harm in posting too freely on sites like Facebook.

“I want everybody here to be careful about what you post on Facebook — because in the YouTube age, whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life,” Obama said. “And when you’re young, you make mistakes and you do some stupid stuff. And I’ve been hearing a lot about young people who — you know, they’re posting stuff on Facebook, and then suddenly they go apply for a job and somebody has done a search and — so that’s some practical political advice for you right there.”

It seems some people think he was dishing out some moldy advice.

Blogger Dan Gillmor wrote, “The notion of punishing someone decades later for what he or she said or did as a teenager or college student just feels wrong to me” and Lyn Millett continued on that train of thought by saying “I usually find discussions of how cavalier the ‘Kids These Days’ are about privacy to be woefully naïve. Usually what the complainer is saying is that Kids don’t have the same notions of privacy and decorum as the complainer has. I think that intergenerational privacy debates come in two flavors, and too often only one aspect is considered. The one aspect that gets all the attention is the one that goes: "Hey, back when I was 19, I never would have exposed [X] to the world! Kids today do it all the time. Ergo, they care less about privacy than I do." There are a fair number of flaws in that style of complaint, not least of which is the fact that the Kids may very well simply consider different things ‘private.’”

Agreed.

But what do you think? In the accounting profession is it better to play it safe and not host a personal blog, and monitor carefully what is put up on Facebook and Twitter? Or is it OK to let loose a bit on private pages?

What do you think?

Comments (1)
I totally agree with you.

As the amount of pictures taken at students' parties have skyrocketed, I am sure compromising pictures of future presidents will surface during the presidential campaigns. And nobody will continue to bother, as everyone will know they had these pictures taken too at some stage in their life. These pictures might even help the campaign, as people realise this guy is 'only human'.

So yes, it's good to be a little bit careful of what images and videos get out there. But people won't be bothered as much.
Posted by David van Venetien | Sunday, September 20 2009 at 2:11PM ET
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