BCS ISG member Anuradha Udunuwara asks: is security and privacy a concern for the next generation?

Security and privacy in the digital world has been widely discussed and debated at many levels in different forums. Much of the digital world known to society today has a direct or indirect relationship or connection to the internet. In a world of the internet of places, people and things, the security and privacy of data and information has been challenged as never before, especially that of people. Is that a concern and, if so, to whom?

According to Wikipedia, a generation is ‘all of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectively.’ It can also be described as, "the average period, generally considered to be about thirty years, during which children are born and grow up, become adults, and begin to have children of their own.’ Demographers and researchers typically refer to the last three generations as;

  • Generation X (aka Gen X) - birth years ranging from the early-to-mid 1960s to the early 1980s;
  • Generation Y (aka Gen Y, Millennials) - birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the mid-1990 to early 2000s;
  • Generation Z (aka Gen Z, iGeneration, iGen, Post-Millennials, Homeland Generation) - birth years starting from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s.

All these generations have come into existence during the technology revolution, especially the internet, and Gen Z have been born to a world of FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) or BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) in China. As a result, most of the individuals belonging to the latter generations have their own digital (or internet) presence/identity. This is interconnected with lot of data and information about that particular individual.

We have now come to a point where we are struggling to define what is private and what is not. Even if you ask a Gen Y/Z, very few will be able to give a conscious answer. The majority of Gen Y/Zs inability to understand or decide, what is private and what is public has resulted in much of their personal data / information being exposed to others. With all the privacy and security implementations available in different applications on the internet, most of the users seems to be willing to share their personal information, leaving the internet companies with very little to protect the information.

Is this ignorance, lack of understanding or a generational problem? I think the answer to this question is far from being straightforward and requires a proper study, ideally by sociologists. However, the general consensus of the previous generations is that this is unacceptable. So what is the acceptable level? Is there an acceptable level for private information being publicly shared? Can we set guidelines for Gen Y/Z and the next generation?

As we move forward and progress with technology and innovations, it looks to me that we are creating some additional issues / problems, mostly sociological, that need to be addressed. Will the Gen Ys, Gen Zs, and those who come after, consider I security and privacy in the same way? The way things are moving today, the chances are that such considerations will be very minimal.

About the author

This blog is brought to you by the members of the BCS Internet specialist group and allows you to harness their skills, expertise and knowledge. The internet is ubiquitous and has a major impact on our daily lives, at work, at home on the move. The associated risks and security concerns are real, but the magic and advantages of the internet are significant.