Young adults concerned but not naive about privacy: study

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 17 2010 08:09 AM | Updated as of Apr 17 2010 04:09 PM

SAN FRANCISCO - US young adults care about their online privacy just as much as older Americans, but they tend to be more naive, a study released Thursday found.

Hot trends in online social networking, geolocation services, and firing off musings in Twitter messages are not a sign that privacy is less important to the younger generation than to its predecessors, according to the research.

"We are not arguing that young adults don't do foolish things on Facebook," said study co-author Joseph Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication.

"Some of them may do silly things, but a huge percentage of them care. We find there is rather little difference between young adults and people who are older when you talk to them about privacy."

The real difference lay in how much adults aged 18 through 24 believed their online privacy was protected by law, he said.

"The general population thinks the government protects them more than it does, but young adults even more so," Turow told AFP.

Factors that may prompt young adults to be more cavalier with information online include peer pressure to be part of Internet social networks and natural tendencies toward risky behavior.

Turow cautioned that more research regarding what older adults do online is needed for a true comparison of the behavior of different age groups on the Internet.

"It is possible older adults do... foolish things," Turow said.

"They may not show up naked as much but they may get in trouble saying bad things about a boss or with a picture of them golfing when they are supposed to be off sick."

Young adults need education about the degree to which their online privacy is legally guarded and security settings at social-networking websites should be tight by default, study authors suggested.

The study by Annenberg and the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, was based on a random sampling of 1,000 adults surveyed by telephone last year.