Event recap: Youth Advisory Group workshop 

Wednesday 24th May, 2017

As part of Privacy Awareness Week 2017, the Office of the Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection’s (CPDP) Youth Advisory Group (YAG) hosted a public workshop – Privacy: Not Dead, Just Different. The event, held in collaboration with the University of Melbourne, explored the differing perceptions of privacy between older and younger generations. Participants of the workshop, held on Friday the 12th of May at the University of Melbourne, took part in a series of round-robin style discussions, on the topics of social media, sharing information, surveillance, and the virtual footprint.

The objective of the workshop was to increase participants’ understanding of intergenerational concepts of privacy, noting that this is particularly important in a time of rapid technological change. Young people today have an ever-increasing online presence and as ‘technology natives,’ naturally may have differing views on privacy than older generations who did not grow up with the technology we have today. The workshop attracted participants of all ages and members of the YAG led the group discussions, with some key themes and considerations emerging.

Social media
Each of the groups considered how social media is increasingly becoming essential in maintaining relationships with others. Participants of all ages identified the positives of social media, such as allowing them to maintain connections with people they may have otherwise lost contact with. The broad view of participants was that social media remains essential for all generations, and that without it we may experience social exclusion.

The discussion groups also noted the changing nature of social media, with sites such as Facebook and Twitter now also becoming platforms for users to receive news and share their views. In light of the expanding use of social media, participants noted the importance of maintaining privacy settings, and all groups were conscious of the fact that others can see the information they post online.

Sharing personal information
The second theme was information sharing. Participants discussed the types of information they would generally keep private, and the circumstances in which they would be happy to share this information with others, such as account passwords or sharing access to smartphones. Participants of all generations identified trust as an essential component in sharing any personal information, between friends or family or even when accessing healthcare services.

The third topic was surveillance and monitoring. Participants considered the surveillance of students in schools and universities, through forms of Wi-Fi tracking and the use of education analytics tools to track student engagement. Groups flagged that many of these surveillance practices may be invasive and conducted without students’ knowledge. To potentially address some of the privacy concerns, participants agreed that schools and universities should be more open about their surveillance practices and where possible, provide students with the choice to opt out of such services.

Virtual footprint
Groups also considered the reality that the identity of young persons today is very much linked to their online presence, and that there is now less of a distinction between their virtual and ‘real life’ identities. As such, managing online footprints and reputation has become an important consideration for today’s youth. Participants considered the permanence of their online presence and discussed ways in which individuals can exercise caution when posting information about themselves online.

The idea of consent was considered across each of the themes, and groups shared the view that it is important for individuals to have control over their information. Participants identified simple ways to protect information online, such as continually updating privacy settings, and noted that it is important for organisations to send alerts to users when they update their privacy policies to keep them informed.

CPDP would like to warmly thank all those who came along and participated, and to congratulate the members of the YAG on leading such informative and engaging discussions. CPDP would also like to thank the University of Melbourne for co-hosting this event.