[Dave Birch] I went back to Kids, the Internet, and the End of Privacy in New York Magazine. One of the characters discussed in the piece is a girl called “Susie” who, some years ago, rather unwisely made some (and I realise this is a family blog, hence the delicate language) intimate videos for her boyfriend. Somewhat predicatably, someone (probably her boyfriend’s roommate) uploaded the videos to the Internet. Now she has her own Wikipedia entry. No construction of digital identity can stop this kind of thing from happening: but, conversely, we shouldn’t throw up our hands and announce the end of privacy just because this kind of thing can happen.

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Is there something, some kind of fundamental cultural shift of perspective around identity going on, or are young persons who seem to pay no attention to privacy just plain wrong? I think it’s the latter, and not just because I’m old. Caution is necessary. None of us know how the technology is going to evolve and what social mores are going to develop behind it. It may be that having your youthful indiscretions preserved permanently on YouTube is seen as being cute, or a rite of passage, or an essential part of modern life.

Surely, even the most technology-phobic teenager will realise that anything committed to film — whether on a cameraphone or HD MiniDV — will, in essence, be available to the entire world in perpetuity and they will then modify their behaviour accordingly. “Susie” will be seen as a victim of early stage new technology, not a template for the new teen.

The magazine article asks an interesting question: what happens when a person who has archived their teens grows up? Will they regret their earlier decisions and youthful enthusiasm for new media, or will they love the sturdy bridge to a younger self (which is a phrase I love) as well as the access to the past lives of friends and relatives. On a more pragmatic level, what does this do when you apply for a job or meet the person you’re going to marry? Will employers simply accept that everyone has a video themselves inhaling? Will your own children take it as a matter of course that they will log in with their friends and laugh themselves silly at their parents?

But surely this is just a transitional problem? As children become more savvy around the new medium, then they will adjust their behaviour accordingly, won’t they? Any future employer who relies on a MySpace profile deserves everything they get, since two-thirds of boys and half of girls post false information in their profiles. My evidence that this an adjustment to the new medium? Younger and older teens exhibit another split, with 69% of younger teens posting fake information versus 48% of older teens. Surely there is a new model emerging, where it is taken for granted that people have multiple persona and that your MySpace persona is not the same as your student persona which is not the same as your family persona.

My opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public.
[posted with ecto]

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