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Seeing privacy and trust from an under-25’s perspective

November 2013

We need to understand why young people have very different attitudes to data and how it’s used, says Harper Reed.

For a video with English subtitles, please click on CC above or the appropriate subtitle icon during play.

Young people have a radically different perspective on data privacy and trust, says Harper Reed, something that manifests itself in a lack of concern about who has access to their data content, from photos and videos to personal profiles and purchase history.

What they do want, however, is a measure of control — control over their public profile or to de-activate their Facebook account when they are not able to participate in the conversation, says the former CTO of Obama for America 2012 and now CEO of Lunar Technology, in the exclusive video.

“I’ve had the fascinating experience of traveling the world for the past eight months and what I’ve seen is that anyone under 25 has the same view on privacy, data and trust — which is that they don’t really care. It’s not that they don’t care about data; they don't care about the things [older people] care about. So while we have to create a world where we’re not abusing data and privacy, we must also question whether we are thinking about this from our perspective or from that of young people?”

Snapchat is a great example of that disconnect between generations, he says. While older generations are bemused as to why anyone would want to send a photo that self-destructs after 8 to 10 seconds, for younger people ephemeral images are simply a tool to extend their social interaction. “The ideas around photos for those over 25 have a lot to do with permanence. When your house is burning down, what are you going to grab? Your box of photos. Talk to young people and [their perception is] everything is in a cloud: there’s nothing permanent. You really start thinking about this as a paradigm shift.”

“As we move forward with data privacy and things open up, there's a responsibility on retailers not to be creepy.”

Retailers in particular need to be acutely sensitive of the new data landscape, says 35-year-old Reed. “As we move forward with data privacy and things open up, there’s a responsibility on retailers not [so much] to be careful but not to be creepy.”

That means not overtly using the knowledge they hold on individuals, gathered through purchase history, demographic data and other sources, to expose too much information. “They should surface it very carefully, be thoughtful about it,” Reed says. If done well, the reaction of an individual when confronted by the fact that a retailer knows a vast amount about them should be, “Wow, that's really cool, you did help me get a better deal.”

“We are all interacting with data every day, trading data for something, so retailers are going to have to learn the language around this trade.”

First published
November 2013
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About: Harper Reed
Social media pioneer Harper Reed, 35, led IT for Obama for America 2012, orchestrating the most sophisticated application of technology ever in a political campaign. He is now CEO of m-commerce start-up Lunar Technology.
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