Do we need to secure our future?

Email is not the forefront of technology, and of no apparent use to the community of users that are currently growing up. So says Hannes Lubich at the opening plenary of #tnc2010. Students are simply not worried about losing control of personal data – but do they really understand the impact of reputation within the social networking world, and beyond?

Privacy is clearly going to be a strong theme at this year’s TNC (Terena Networking Conference) but it is refreshing to see a techie conference start with a keynote talking about users, talking about students and talking about behaviours.
Lubich points out that the older generation are often in charge of security, and tend to default to a position of banning rather than seizing the opportunity. Do we need to push our boundaries or should we just allow ourselves to benefit from the younger generation?

At the conference we are being encouraged to shake hands using a ‘poken’, which stores our personal data and shares it with others. Essentially, we are being asked to actively share our personal data with the Terena community and with Terena itself. How comfortable are people in the room with us? What is the risk appetite in the room?

Lubich’s colleagues have be known to work in to a classroom with a book and announce to students ‘this is a book, you may have seen one on television.’ The only reason that any of this should scare us is that we are not in control of the spaces in which people are collaborating. We can’t control the security of Facebook, or a student’s blog.

There are obviously fluffy boundaries between public and private, personal and political / professional. I’d argue that this isn’t perhaps the problem that it is being presented as in the conference – these blurred boundaries have always existed. We just haven’t workout out how to manage these boundaries using new tech – just like we had to learn how to convey tone and attitude in email and the dangers of flaming.

We are so focused on debating the threats of these new environments that we are not focusing on the opportunities, says Lubich. I think this is true. However I think his focus on students and student processes are not a clear representation of how behaviour is taken forward. Lubich asked people in the room how many had two mobile phones, and dismissed this as ‘outmoded’ – i’d argue that this reflects that fact that students are not managing the duality of work and home.

One of the problems with social networking sites is that we tend to look for the negatives and not the positives. It is more likely that a recruiter would be looking for embarassing drunken photo of you on Facebook than a positive addition to your skills set and healthy hobbies. See BBC’s The Wall for examples of this.

Lubich ends by asking how can we use GenY’s creative potentinal without giving up control? I’d argue that may be it is instead time to stop trying to control, and get on with managing the consequences. Shall we put the paranoia behind us?

2 thoughts on “Do we need to secure our future?

  1. Rod Widdowson

    > Student are simply not worried about losing control of personal data.

    I’m not sure that is proven:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1589864

    > In policy circles, it has become almost a cliché to claim that young
    > people do not care about privacy. Certainly there are many troubling
    > anecdotes surrounding young individuals’ use of the internet, and of
    > social networking sites in particular. Nevertheless, we found that in
    > large proportions young adults do care about privacy.

  2. David Harrison

    Nice piece Nicole – agree with all you say! I particularly like your entreatment to encourage users to present a positive side to themselves on Fb … if that’s what you were saying … instead of just doing the threat, doom and gloom messagen about the negative side.

    I’m not sure they are worried about losing control of personal data; I don’t think they’ve been encouraged/educated to consider any alternatives, and that’s a bit of an embarassment to many of us in the It Services world. Hey! Perhaps that’s a piece of work for JISC to fund … Strategies for selection and management of service providers that you have accounts with.

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