Gen Y, Social Safety & Meningitis
Twitter as Brand Management

Gen Y & The Looming Identity Crisis

A few weeks ago the L.A. Times had an alarming story about how little control we have over who has personal information that we often share on the web. Here's the upshot:

Jane Yang, a 30-year-old marketing coordinator, was curious the other day to see what would turn up if she searched for herself on Reunion.com, a Los Angeles-based social networking site.

Sure enough, there was her name, which didn’t bother the Oregon resident all that much. Nor was she particularly troubled that her husband’s name was included under her “Friends & Family.”

What did startle Yang was seeing the name of her 4-year-old son.

But wait. It gets worse.

Not only was her child's personal information on a social networking site, but when she called the fine folks over at Reunion.com they told her that they had no idea how or where they got the information. Nor did they know why the data was cleared to be indexed in their public database.

Sounds like Reunion.com is heading for a possible fine for violating COPPA. And as Imbee.com found out, getting off that hook isn't cheap.

This anecdote should serve as a reminder that we all need to think before we freely share personal information in social networking communities. Here are a few tips:

  • Visit the sites your kids use and read the TOS (Terms of Service) and Community Guidelines.
  • See what information these sites collect and what they do with it.
  • If the company sells or shares personal information, find out how you can opt out.

Many Gen Y'rs, because they freely share this information, may be shocked to discover that their so-called "personal information" has been sold to data brokers. And that spring break trip in 2001 that you thought nobody else knew about--oops!--suddenly becomes public.

And remember, just because you delete that photo of yourself doesn't mean that it isn't archived somewhere. Forever. After all, your privacy is an illusion.

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