Intimate details of peoples’ lives are freely available through the magic of Google. Many people post their names, email and street addresses, phone numbers, and photos to the internet, without much thought about it. According to a survey released last month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 60 percent of internet users aren’t worried about how much of their personal information is available online.
Teenagers and children are often accused of being too cavalier with the details of their lives, but the survey suggests that adults are even more open with their personal information. Among people with visible profiles on social networking sites, such as MySpace or Facebook, the study reports that teens “make more conservative choices with respect to visibility” than their adult counterparts. A full 61 percent of adults don’t try to limit how much information is available about them online, and only 38 percent said that they have taken action to limit that information.
“Of course, what amuses me is that adults are saying one thing and doing another,” writes social networking guru Danah Boyd on her blog. Adults are telling children to protect themselves online, and then not protecting their own information. That kind of “do as I say, not as I do” attitude could hinder a meaningful and nuanced view of privacy in both children and adults.