Privacy, Surveillance and Generation TMI

Cory Doctorow, editor of Boing Boing, talks about internet privacy and generation overshare (photo:

Last week, I read a phrase that really stuck with me, “digital birthright,” used to describe the instantaneous tech savvy of the up and coming generation of gadget users. For the life of me, I can’t recall where I read it, or who wrote it, but props to them for succinctly describing this texting/facebook/twitter/social networking generation.

And then yesterday, I read a Jezebel post about Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt that described our current epoch as the “Post-Dignity Era.” We are Generation Overshare, Generation TMI.

That’s the flipside of the digital birthright. The pressure (desire? expectation? obligation?) to participate in extensive sharing is strongly encouraged, and sometimes coerced, on these forums. One can’t really be a passive participant and still be a full member of the club. Hence, my parents are on facebook, but they aren’t really on facebook.

Cory Doctorow’s latest TED Talk delves into this conundrum, discussing questions of surveillance, privacy, and internet insurrection. He argues that parents monitoring their kids’ content on the internet teach kids that surveillance is to be expected. Monitoring demeans the notion of privacy and consequently, when Facebook/Google/the next big thing demands ever more information, kids are primed to give it without question. The goal, he says, is to teach your kids that every time a site or service asks for your social or your date of birth, your response should be, “why do you need this?”

The internet is, no doubt, a crazy place. I’m fascinated by how parents and schools will handle all of its wonders and dangers with upcoming generations. Although maybe the real question is, how much will kids teach to their parents?

Related Post: Another favorite TED Talk… Jane McGonigal on video games saving the world.

Related Post: Hans Rosling on the relationship between washing machines and Cat in the Hat.



Filed under Education, Family, Media

7 responses to “Privacy, Surveillance and Generation TMI

  1. Adam Blackie

    I am hosting a workshop at UCL (in London UK) this week. Do you mind if I reproduce your content for the students (to get them thinking).

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