Why aren't teenagers worried about their country?

Young people and data protection

How do young people handle their data in social networks and what does this mean for media education? An overview.

Internet privacy

A 17-year-old British woman lost her job as youth police spokeswoman after her Twitter stream revealed news about drugs and alcohol. A future au pair is said to have been put back on the plane home immediately by the American authorities after it was proven with the help of Facebook postings that - contrary to what she stated on entry - she wanted to work in the USA . Tessa from Hamburg achieved fame across Germany through her “Facebook Party”, which was attended by 1,00 people because she had not restricted the number of recipients for her birthday invitation. The list of data protection mishaps among young people reported in the media is already long. In addition, there are many small data protection flaws in everyday life, which ensure that embarrassing photos do not only make the rounds among friends or the mobile phone number falls into the wrong hands. In some cases, the lack of protection of private data can give rise to (cyber) bullying.

The number of young people who protect their community profile by adjusting their privacy settings has risen to almost 90 percent for years. This can certainly be rated as a success of the data protection education, but anyone who thinks that everything would be all right is mistaken.

GettyImages / martin-dm

The semi-public of social networks

The longer communities like Facebook are popular with young people, the larger the circle of so-called friends with whom they share information online. While an average of 160 friends were found in a young person's community profile in 2010, the number has almost doubled within three years to 290 friends - the 16 to 17-year-olds even have an average of 380 friends in their Facebook friends list. Over half of adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 24 are connected online with people they have never met personally.

The majority of teens also share their profile information with this very group of friends. Only about one in ten young people makes restrictions within the circle of friends. If the setting “Friends of Friends” is selected for status reports, photos, markings, etc., it is easy to arrive at a five-digit potential addressee group. In October 2013, Facebook changed its default setting for newly registered users between the ages of 13 and 17 to “only friends”, but existing profiles remain unaffected. At the same time, the network enables young people to post publicly, which was previously not possible until their 18th birthday. In their online social networks, adolescents move in a semi-public sphere in which they have the feeling that by choosing friends they can decide who they want to share in their lives, but in truth they can - in the sense of informational self-determination - no longer know who knows what about them.

A comparative look at WhatsApp, the messenger service that has replaced Facebook as the most important means of communication for young people, at least on mobile devices. You can only exchange messages or photos via WhatsApp if the communication partners have saved the mobile phone number of the other parties involved. The average number of cell phone contacts among young people is 60 stored numbers; with increasing age there are more. Compared to an average of 17 really close friends, this is still a considerable number. Young people know that their mobile phone number is a sensitive date and rarely reveal their number in their online profiles, but the number increased from three to five percent between 2011 and 2013. Here, however, the young people are (still) aware of data protection overall. However, it is to be feared that many have not even noticed what WhatsApp is doing with their own data, so that there is still a lot of carelessness and carelessness here.

Sense of security in social networks

Although the young people make privacy settings, only a good half feel secure in managing their private data in social networks. The feeling of insecurity increases with age: While almost 80 percent of 12 to 13-year-olds state that they feel very safe to secure with regard to data protection in their community, among 18 to 19-year-olds only claim that 39 percent. The conclusion: the less experience young people have with social networks, the higher they rate their own data protection competence.

Anyone who asks for help in dealing with data protection also protects their privacy better in online networks, for example by restricting the visibility of messages. Education and assistance with regard to data protection and privacy management are absolutely necessary and remain important even if the young people have already recognized the protection of their data as a problem.

Handling the data of others

In addition to protecting their own private data on the Internet, young people are also responsible for the private data of others - mostly their actual friends - when sharing pictures. Most young people are aware of this, but not always a criterion that guides their actions. Over a third of young people have already found photos of themselves online that they would rather not have seen there. At the same time, it is okay for about the same number of young people to post photos, videos or texts with information about others on the Internet without asking for their consent beforehand. Disregarding the personal rights of third parties becomes particularly problematic when information or images are distributed that (should) harm them: one in eight young people has already suffered from lies or embarrassing images on the Internet.

Problem awareness

Young people are aware of specific dangers such as the dissemination of embarrassing photos or unwanted contacts - which can occur because they do not adequately protect their online profiles. The situation is different, however, when the effects of inadequate protection of one's own data become more abstract. Few young people seem to know that their date of birth can be used for identity abuse. The adolescents often only perceive the monitoring and control made possible by their data traces in relation to law enforcement or their immediate environment (parents or jealous partner). The providers of social networks appear to them only as "invisible third parties". What they can do with their data is rather unclear to young people. And even if there is mistrust of platform operators, this does not necessarily lead the young people to draw conclusions, for example by logging out of the corresponding network.

Privacy paradox

Overall, the handling of (not only) young people with private data in communities can be described as a “privacy paradox”: On the one hand, they state that they are concerned about their privacy and also take individual protective measures; on the other hand, they willingly disclose information about themselves to a large group of recipients . On the one hand, they have already made the experience that their right to their own image has been violated by others, on the other hand, they disregard this in others themselves. Either the young people overestimate their skills in terms of data protection or they feel insecure and use the platforms but still continue. This contrast between knowing and acting in relation to data protection coincides with adult behavior. They are also concerned about the protection of their data, but also only take isolated protective measures. Limiting the visibility of one's own posts to “friends” or using a virus scanner appear to be a panacea that relieves the user of any further responsibility for his own data. The reason for this paradoxical behavior can be seen, among other things, in the inability to grasp the consequences of data collection, data theft or data misuse, especially by companies.

Social networks and personalized advertising

The most popular social networks usually do not charge users any money for their services, because they generate their income primarily from advertising. Personalized advertising plays a central role here, i.e. advertisements that are precisely tailored to the online activities of users. In order to place personalized advertisements, certain data is collected about the users. With the new terms and conditions of January 30, 2015, the social network Facebook has increased the collection of data on the online activities of its users. Facebook no longer only registers activities in the social network itself, but can also track users' online activities across various websites and apps. The basis for this is the Atlas advertising network, which Facebook took over from Microsoft in 2013 and expanded. The network enables advertisers to collect, evaluate and exchange data on the various online activities of users. So if you as a user browse certain travel websites for your next holiday destination, the personalized advertising offers on Facebook will also change and the advertising banners will now contain, for example, tailored holiday offers. In this way, Facebook generates an individual (advertising) identity for each profile based on the surfing behavior. Personalized advertising appears across all platforms: If, for example, users receive advertisements from holiday portals on their desktop PC due to their surfing behavior, corresponding advertisements also appear on smartphones, tablets and all other end devices via which they log into Facebook with the same profile.

With new authorizations, Facebook can also access location-related user data as an app. Theoretically, it is possible to advertise nearby shops, restaurants or attractions.

Teaching media at SESAM

At SESAM you will find teaching materials and media on the subject of data protection.

SESAM media library

This text is licensed under a Creative Commons license. You are allowed to reproduce, distribute and edit the content if you state the name of the author and distribute the text under the same license conditions. Please note that the images are subject to different copyright provisions.