Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: teenagers

The Ethics of Invading Privacy

“For example, even when two people happen to be sitting across from each other on the subway, social norms dictate that they should not stare at each other or insert themselves into the other’s conversations. Of course, people still do these things, but they also feel a social responsibility to avert their eyes and pretend that they cannot hear the conversation taking place. What’s at stake is not whether someone can listen in but whether one should”

 

I found this quote interesting because it was reminiscent of the discussion we had in class of using locks as a social cue for security. In danah boyd’s book It’s Complicated, she tries to highlight the distinction between the ability to violate privacy and consciously doing so. Given the degree of entanglement of our social lives and the internet, violating privacy is extremely easy. While taking steps to strengthen your privacy can be helpful, it is often futile either because it is difficult to implement effectively or because someone actively seeking to override your privacy could probably succeed by putting in enough effort. In such cases, it is better to define what is right or wrong and not keep much faith in the efficacy of privacy.

In her book, boyd gives the example of Christopher, a fifteen year old teenager who gave his social media passwords to his parents, trusting them not to violate his privacy. I feel this is somewhat the middle ground which finds a balance between what adults want and what teenagers desire. If we ignore intensive parenting for the moment, parents want their children to be safe and not be doing anything wrong, and teenagers want to be able to regulate which part of their lives their parents should see. By trusting them their your password,  teenagers can inspire confidence in their parents that they are not doing something unlawful while parents can feel like they have the means to protect their child. Additionally, giving access to parents breaks the false notion they hold that privacy is associated with wrongdoing.

All Eyes on Us

“Although teens grapple with managing their identity and navigating
youth-centric communities while simultaneously maintaining
spaces for intimacy, they do so under the spotlight of a media ecosystem
designed to publicize every teen fad, moral panic, and new hyped
technology”

Who dictates how long mistakes last? Do they linger for a few embarrassing weeks or days until gradually fading from the memories and interest of our stimulation seeking brains? Or are they held up for the world to see, for as long as the internet exists? Our parents and generations before did not necessarily have to worry about the latter happening, because their social lives did not revolve around sharing details, pictures, or videos of themselves for friends and the public alike to see. You did something regrettable, embarrassed yourself and eventually it would most likely not be brought up again. The reality of the modern teen or young adult is much different.

I am not arguing that people should not be held accountable for mistakes, rather I present the idea that there is a looming cloud that shrouds my generation. Someone is always watching, recording, or listening. A certain pressure descends upon teenagers in social situations. That does not excuse us from making dumb decisions but rather increases the likelihood that those mistakes will prevent opportunities in the future.

Say someone takes a video or a picture that you do not want spread, but that picture is instead posted to a certain social media site. Once it is shared, there not much anyone can do to completely erase that picture. You are now a permanent fixture on someone’s page. This is exactly the point where teens try to make the point that they do value privacy and security. Just because teens share information about themselves on the internet, does not mean they have requested a book with everything they’ve every said or done written about them.

So, in a society as interconnected as ours is today, how do we deal with the proposition of privacy? Delete all of our social media accounts? Possibly, but extremely unlikely for the majority. I am not quite so sure myself wether there is a solution to this issue. Maybe these are just new times, a new reality where everyone’s private life, becomes that bit more public.

Teens, Social Media, and Privacy

The other day in class, I asked you to respond to this short, terrible play:

  • Teen: “If my dad monitored my Instagram, that would mean he doesn’t trust me.”
  • Dad: “If you’re not doing anything wrong, what do you have to worry about?”

First, I asked you to role play the teenager. How might you respond to the dad? Here’s a capture of what you suggested.

Then, I asked you to role play the parent. Why might a parent want to monitor their teenager’s social media use? We broke out the Post-it notes for this.

You did a great job exploring a position that most of you (it seemed) did not initially agree with. Keep this in mind when you’re writing argumentative essays in the future. To make a compelling case, you have to take the other side’s perspective seriously, understand it, and respond to it.

Alicia’s Definition

‘I just think it’s different. . . . I think privacy is more just you choosing what you want to keep to yourself’ says seventeen-year-old Alicia.

Now I have heard many scholars and experts try to pin a definition on privacy, but this, by far, is the best one in my opinion. Without trying to explain too much, Alicia captures the take that many people, both adults and teens, have on privacy in the context of social media.

If you choose to share something about yourself on social media, it does not necessarily mean that you do not care about privacy itself. It just might mean that whatever you shared is not worth the effort to keep private.

Because this ‘new’ definition is by a seventeen-year-old girl, many older folks (mainly parents) might not agree with it, but many of them might be surprised to find out that it is not so new. In fact, it is the same form of privacy that they grew up with.

Social media may have been non-existent, but thought process people used back then was the same: Share whatever you do not care about, and keep what you do care about to yourself. It has always been that simple (at least in modern history) and still is.

If that is the case, then maybe parents should think about lightening up and trusting Alicia as well as the rest of us teenagers.

Worry is a misuse of your imagination

“Teens often grow frustrated with adult assumptions that suggest that they are part of a generation that has eschewed privacy in order to participate in social media.”

I would agree that there definitely is a social pressure to “post nice pictures” on Instagram or Facebook or VSCO because there’s a recurring saying among users that if you didn’t take a picture and post it on Instagram, then were you really there?

But also I agree that the generation of parents fret too much over us being peer pressured into doing something that we don’t want to. That just isn’t always the case, because it’s up to that teenager to decide whether other people will dictate her feelings and the social pressure she puts on herself or just completely disregard the impact of social media and be carefree of it. People nowadays have more respect for exactly that—not caring how many “likes” a picture gets, but posting a picture plainly for the memory or to share what’s going on in their life. Sure, the pressure of being validated by the amount of likes you get will always be present because validation of existence and purpose I would argue is one of the basic needs of human life in the 21st century, but I think we can all agree that we can control ourselves mentally to not let that define our existence. If not, then that says a lot about how easily people can be manipulated today.

I think the reality is that teenagers are briefed so many times on the whole “keep your private information PRIVATE and everything posted online will stay there forever” shebang that there’s already a common sentiment that teenagers actually do want privacy. The stories about teenagers posting an indecent post that received much disdain and dislike that resulted in her/him being socially shunned that people are scared into are probably exaggerated and skewed to sound like it’s worse than it actually is. I’m sure that we’ve all posted something (not even risqué) that we look back on two years later and go “yikes.” But the whole mental game plays with your mind to make it seem like that post attracted a lot more negative attention towards your social standing than it actually did. And that’s the trap of social media and why parents have such a misunderstanding of how teenagers really understand use and sharing of private information on social media.

I’ve Heard it Both Ways

It’s easy to think of privacy and publicity as opposing concepts, and a lot of technology is built on the assumption that you have to choose to be private or public. Yet in practice, both privacy and publicity are blurred.     (danah 76)

As with many of the issues surrounding cryptography, privacy versus publicity is often viewed as a false dichotomy. Both privacy and publicity are relative terms, though. Without a public realm of information with which to compare it, privacy would not exist. The problem with sharing information publicly, though, arises when we must decide what information we wish to keep private. As discussed in this chapter, the fact that teens wish to keep information private does not indicate that they have something to hide; rather, it is an example of them choosing which parts of their lives to keep to themselves.

In a way, making aspects of our lives public can actually increase our privacy relatively. It is possible for teens to hide behind a screen and only post what they want other people to see, not the whole truth. By choosing which aspects of our lives to keep private, we are realizing that just about everything else can be accessed by the general public. It is a trade-off that many choose to make, but in reality is just a consequence of trying to find a balance between privacy and publicity. In an era where private information is becoming increasingly public, we must work to find a happy medium where we can easily communicate with others while still respecting individual decisions on which parts of life they wish to keep private.

Privacy = Trust

Some teens see privacy as a right, but many more see privacy as a matter of trust. Thus, when parents choose to snoop or lurk or read their online posts, these teens see it as a signal of distrust.
-danah boyd
(It’s Complicated, page 73)

I can remember in 8th grade when my friends’ parents starting joining Facebook, not because they wanted to snoop on us, but because they saw Facebook as an opportunity to reconnect with old high school and college friends. However, some people did see this invasion into the “teen world” as their parents mistrust of them. Until recently, my parents have not had any desire to join social media (now my dad has a Twitter that he uses as a newsfeed for short, quick headlines). But more so than social media, my parents’ surveillance of me in other ways has given me the same sense of distrust that the teens interviewed in It’s Complicated expressed.

Until I turned 18, my dad received a text message every time I used my debit card, including where and how much. They also have the ability to (and they do) use the location services on my phone to see where I am. In short, if I wanted to go somewhere and do something without my parents’ knowledge, it wouldn’t be easy. Sometimes, it would seem that they don’t trust me to tell them where I actually am and what I’m actually doing, but I’m sure their intentions are to ensure my safety in case anything were to happen.

In high school, I gave up some privacy to appease my parents and follow their rules. But now that I’m at college, our understanding is that unless I go off campus anywhere further than walking distance, I must let them know where I’m going. In other words, they trust me and give me the privacy to go and do what I please around and just off campus, and I expect that they won’t betray that privacy by checking my exact location all the time. I think that in all aspects of life, the balance of privacy and trust versus safety and protection is an integral piece of the relationship between a teen and his/her parents. Even if we have nothing to hide, we associate having some privacy with the extent to which our parents trust us.

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