Teens becoming increasingly aware of online privacy encouraging, says expert

Oxford OPP were contacted in January by a parent who had discovered a person was communicating with their child over the Internet in an inappropriate manner. Nico De Pasquale Photography/Flickr

TORONTO – Many teens are becoming increasingly aware of their online privacy when it comes to using mobile apps, news that experts find encouraging from a generation formerly labelled as careless when it comes to online activities.

According to a Pew Research survey, although teens have embraced downloading apps, many of them have taken steps to uninstall or avoid some apps over concerns about information privacy.

The survey found that 46 per cent of teen app users have shut off location services on their smartphones or mobile devices over concerns about how their information was being used.

It also found that 26 per cent of teens had deleted an app because they learned it was collecting personal information they didn’t want to share.

According to social media expert Megan Boler, the findings are encouraging because it shows that Millennials – a generation that was once criticized for putting too much information on the web – are becoming more privacy-savvy.

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Boler suggested that some teens may feel compelled to be more careful about their privacy as social networks come under fire for lax and complex privacy policies.

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“There have been an increasingly amount of awareness because of public concerns about Facebook’s privacy concerns,” said Boler, a professor at the University of Toronto.

Facebook recently came under fire for its new “Graph Search” feature which allows users to make hyper-specific searches.

The tool was deemed “too creepy” by many users, as it allowed friends of friends to search for  things like photos that friends have tagged you in – which may be outside your privacy settings.

“One of the big things that I have noticed in my research is that more people are getting involved in social movements around the world,” said Boler, suggesting that there are more conversations surrounding privacy happening on Facebook.

Boler said that while many may consider Facebook a site where teens merely chat about what they had for breakfast, there is an increasing amount of exposure to political concerns – including conversations about the public concerns over Facebook’s new features and even issues like the U.S. National Security Agency’s Internet surveillance program.

“I think there is a growing general awareness [around privacy],” said Boler.

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