Priscilla M. Regan & Gerald FitzGerald, Generational Views of Privacy?
Comment by: Mary Culnan
Workshop draft abstract:
There is a growing body of social science research about the behavior and attitudes of young people online (Valentine and Halloway 2002, Livingstone and Bober 2003, Steeves 2006) and especially in social-networking sites, such as Facebook (Lenhart and Madden 2007). I propose to expand on that research in several ways: by focusing on privacy rather than on a larger set of values; by examining attitudes rather than behavior; and by comparing attitudes across age groups rather than examining a specific age group in detail. Specifically, I propose to perform an age cohort analysis of responses to “concern about privacy and technology” using data from a range of public opinion surveys beginning in the early 1980s and including the privacy surveys of Alan Westin and Lou Harris, and the Pew Internet and American Life surveys. The goal of this part of the research is to determine if there are indeed generational patterns in concerns about privacy, to identify consistencies and disjunctures among generational attitudes, and to determine how these patterns have emerged over time. Although scholars have analyzed changes in concern about privacy over time (Gandy 2003), no one has examined how age cohorts’ views of privacy are different or similar and how those age cohorts’ views change or endure over time. The central argument/hypothesis of this research is that as generations increasingly use computer and information technologies in seamlessly mediating their online and offline worlds they see these technologies as integral to their way of “presenting themselves” (Goffman 1959) and that this in turn causes/contributes to a fundamental change in the way the generations conceptualize privacy as a value in their lives.