Will Online Privacy Issues Go Away with Millenials?

May 06, 2013

According a survey from the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future and Bovitz Inc., Millennials (ages 18-34) are more willing to allow access to their personal data or web behavior and show a greater interest in cooperating with internet businesses. However, this assumes they receive tangible benefits in return.

"Online privacy is dead — Millennials understand that, while older users have not adapted," trumps Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future, in a statement. "Millennials recognize that giving up some of their privacy online can provide benefits to them. This demonstrates a major shift in online behavior — there’s no going back."

According to the survey:

  • Fifty-six percent of Millennials agreed they would share their location with companies in order to receive coupons or deals for nearby businesses compared to 42 percent of internet users 35 and older;
  • Fifty-one pecent of Millennials said they would share information with companies "as long as I get something in return" versus 40 percent of those age 35 and older;
  • A quarter of Millennials agreed with the statement, "I’m ok with trading some of my personal information in exchange for more relevant advertising," versus to 19 percent of those 35 and older.
  • Also related to privacy, almost half of Millennials (48 percent) visit social networking websites several times a day, compared to only 20 percent of users age 35 and older.

In what bloggers on the report saw as contradictory, the survey still found a large percentage of Millennials uncomfortable with others having access to their personal data online or information about their web behavior. When asked about the statement, "No one should ever be allowed to have access to my personal data or web behavior," 70 percent of Millennials agreed, compared with 77 percent of users 35 and older.

Still, Elaine Coleman managing director of media and emerging technologies for Bovitz, said the data shows that Millennials think differently when it comes to online privacy

"It’s not that they don’t care about it — rather they perceive social media as an exchange or an economy of ideas, where sharing involves participating in smart ways," said Ms. Coleman. "Millennials say, ‘I’ll give up some personal information if I get something in return,’" said Coleman. "For older users, sharing is a function of trust — ‘the more I trust, the more I am willing to share.’"

The center surveyed 989 consumers in August.

Do Millennials look at online privacy differently than older generations and what does this mean for retailers? To what degree may their views change as they age?

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14 Comments on "Will Online Privacy Issues Go Away with Millenials?"

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Steve Montgomery

Millennials seem to want to share everything with everybody (okay, only those they and their friends regard as friends—did I say everybody already?). This drove the rise of Facebook, Twitter and others of their ilk, which allow them not only share, but to share instantly.

While I agree there seem to be some contradictory responses in the survey, there is no question that Millennials are willing to put it all out there. The question of whether or not they will change as they age may be somewhat moot as they will have already have given away so much information about themselves on social sites and to various companies on the web that someone will figure out how to use predictive algorithms to determine what they are likely to do next anyway.

Zel Bianco

They absolutely do and they should. It it a different world for those 35 and under and as the study stated, there is no going back. Could it be that Millennials don’t have as much to protect? Will they change their attitudes when they have a house, a mortgage and kids?

Probably not, but the offer has to match the expectation that the information will be used to serve them specifcally as if they feel they have been treated unfairly, they will remember and tell their friends. I mean text their friends.

Joan Treistman

I believe that Millennials are so accustomed to sharing their personal data on the internet that concerns of privacy don’t enter their minds. Whether their personal lives are documented on Facebook, Foursquare, or are speedily spewed out on the screen when completing an online credit card transaction, it’s simply part of the normal day-to-day.

Expectations of privacy are not part of their frame of reference. Or maybe there’s a new definition of privacy for them. Either way, this article and my observations suggest that for Millennials, the line between privacy and “sharing” is hazy.

Max Goldberg

Millennials are finding their places in the world. As such, their opinions are contradictory. They also do not move in lock step as a group. Yes, they want discounts and are willing to give up some private information to get them, but they are also concerned about their overall privacy. The issue of privacy and how much it is desired will continue to shift as the web evolves and the Millennials get older.

J. Peter Deeb

Millennials definitely look at online privacy differently than we older generations do. However, as older generations adapt, we may get better. Will the Millennials views change as they age? Probably not, because we tend to form our views and stick with them. They may get more selective, and this means retailers need to be on top of their customers and take advantage of this communication opportunity to build loyalty and targeted sales.

Mel Kleiman

They have been raised at a time where this exchange of information is something that is taken for granted. Once they get burned it will make them think differently, but it may be too late.

Lee Kent

In this new age and even for some of us older folks, what I buy, where I eat, the places I frequent aren’t private matters. And furthermore, if I can decide what I want to be private, all the better. I don’t think this will change as this group ages, I think ‘we’ are changing as ‘we’ see this group and how they live.

Gene Detroyer

Anyone who participates online and thinks they have privacy is foolish. I will go further, anyone who participates online and thinks they have a right to privacy of their data is foolish.

The difference in the generations is that Millennials understand this and and my generation does not. But, it is even beyond Millennials. Talk to those in their late 30s and early 40s. They will tell you the same thing.

My generation is paranoid and fearful. Millennials are not. Will they change as they get older? No. My generation has always lived behind closed doors. Millennials keep their doors open.

Todd Sherman
Todd Sherman
4 years 4 months ago
The “contradictory” findings of the study are, in fact, not. I think it points to mixed levels of understanding and acceptance about the personal data economy. On one hand, it’s all good if there is a recognizable, tangible (immediate?) benefit. For example, more targeted ads or some sort of discount. On the other hand, for the question “No one should ever be allowed to have access to my personal data or web behavior” where 70 percent of the Millennials agreed seems to be a concern about personal data being used in other, unknown ways. But we are all in a new world where personal data is the new currency. Many websites and apps (i.e. Facebook, Google…) would not be free if they weren’t trafficking on the personal data that’s provided by the users. If someone did not want to provide personal data, it’s difficult if not impossible to use a lot of everyday convenience or productivity tools such as cell phones, Google Maps, texts, online music services, etc. Considering how much personal data is collected, the conversation has changed from “will I provide my personal data” to “what will the companies that have my personal data do with it?” and… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom

I give Mr. Cole three yawns (out of five) on the hyperbole meter. In many cases, the differences aren’t very big to begin with (“a quarter” vs. 19%); and it’s impossible at this point to separate age-related differences (i.e. they will “grow out of it”) from generational ones (they’re truly different). My own guess is that after a few years of “relevant” advertising, and a few too many times of being creeped out from having something tied-into Facebook, a great many more of them will be friending Mr. Privacy.

Ralph Jacobson

Seriously? Have you SEEN Facebook photos lately?! LOL I think privacy concerns lie primarily with Baby Boomers.

Ron X
4 years 4 months ago

Millennials will learn about the consequences of sharing too much online. Privacy concerns vary by region and they will expand as cases receive more publicity.

Alexander Rink
4 years 4 months ago

Although I would agree that Millennials are seemingly less concerned about privacy and do tend to share more than older generations, I would argue that they are very selective about who they share their information with and want control over that. Furthermore, I would disagree that they don’t know the consequences of sharing too much information. I would say that many of them are more aware about privacy security than their parents. Lastly, I believe that Millennials often share information with the expectation of getting some kind of return for it, such as comments from friends, or special offers from companies.

AmolRatna Srivastav
AmolRatna Srivastav
4 years 3 months ago

Who reads the “I accept the terms and conditions…” for any website? 0.1% ? Who cares about what info is shared? With Millennials this is definitely low. Will they care in the future? Maybe. But probably not, as the future will be made of Millennials who have grown this way….


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