Speaking at the RSA conference recently, security expert and author Bruce Schneier warned that the public needs to speak up now if it wants laws requiring businesses to protect people's privacy. According to NetworkWorld:
The longer information-privacy policies go unset, the more likely it is that they never will be set, says Schneier... As young people grow up with broad swaths of information about them in the public domain, they will lose any sense of privacy that older generations have.
Schneier emphasized the fact that younger generations who have grown up with "swaths of information" published about them online may not understand that privacy, and the ability to control their own information, equals liberty. Lack of privacy "shifts control of the information" from the individuals who own it to those entities that collect it. As such, individual liberty is decreased.
Social networks, Schneier reminded conference attendees, are not designed to help preserve privacy. He pointed to research from the UK which showed that the privacy controls on all 43 social-networking sites reviewed are difficult to find and hard to understand once they are found. "And defaults are almost always set to allow maximum dispersal of data," he said.
I agree with Schneier that the right to privacy should be protected. But I wonder whether younger generations who have grown up putting everything "out there" for the world to see on Facebook will even care when they get to be my age that their information is beyond their control. When they haven't known anything else, why would they?
That's Schneier's larger point, I think. We have a responsibility to make sure that they do know something different.