September 24, 2007

"Young People Don't Care About Privacy"

Greetings. As reported in the New York Times, a firm called "Pudding Media" in San Jose is now providing an Internet phone service that offers free phone calls in exchange for enduring computer ads based on the content of your calls. That's right, they listen in and automatically pick out key words of interest, then target the caller (and they hope eventually, the callee) with advertising.

The founders, both of whom have worked for Israeli intelligence (as usual, you just can't make this stuff up) brush aside privacy concerns. First, they claim what they're doing is just the same as what Google does with Gmail. That's a simple assertion about a complex issue, and I won't attempt to dissect it right now, except to suggest that there are significant differences between text and voice. (I say this with the understanding that rumors continue to fly about a possible Google ad-supported cellphone service, which might conceivably be similar to the system being described above -- but we'll cross that bridge if and when we ever come to it.)

But Pudding's other claim is more interesting. They feel that since the service is targeted at young people, and since the firm believes that this demographic is less concerned with maintaining privacy than older people, the service will do just fine.

Coincidentally, the Times has another story running about the increasing use of "snipes" on television, the intrusive animations and promotions running on the screen blocking out the actual programming. The rationale? The broadcast industry wants to cater to what they view as the short attention span of young persons.

Meanwhile, we have operations like Facebook exposing and exploiting the personal data of their mostly youngish users, and other services aggregating personal information from social networking sites and potentially creating even more privacy problems.

Privacy issues affect everyone of every age. But if I were a "young person" today, I'd feel like I was being treated as a sucker when it comes to expectations of a laissez-faire attitude regarding my personal privacy.

The interesting question is, are the assumptions of people like the Pudding Media folks correct? Do young people really not care about their privacy? And if that's true, what does this mean for the future, when Pudding's current targets are older and have a lot more personal "baggage" to be concerned about?

Or, is Pudding Media simply full of tapioca?


Posted by Lauren at September 24, 2007 09:24 AM | Permalink
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