You Need a Harvard Degree to Tell Me That?!

Yesterday I headed over to Georgetown Law School with NYRA Executive Director Alex┬áKoroknay-Palicz for the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference. Alex was speaking on a youth privacy panel hosted by the American Library Association. The intent of the panel hosts was to discuss Facebook and online privacy issues (kids put all their information on the internet these days, etc etc etc) but Alex’s presentation centered around the idea that Facebook isn’t the biggest threat to youth privacy. Teachers, parents, and new technology like GPS phone tracking devices present a much greater threat to privacy.

After Alex’s panel we watched keynote speaker Danah Boyd give a presentation. She’s a captivating public speaker and a very intelligent woman, but the content of her presentation and the audience’s reaction to it amused me. Danah travels around the country talking to kids and teenagers about how they use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. She spent most of the presentation explaining how kids use Facebook to communicate. For example, one girl posts a status saying “she’s such a bitch” because only her close friends will understand who it’s about and know what’s going on. Another boy interacts differently with his family and neighbors than he does with his friends at school. To those of us who’ve grown up with Facebook, this is just common sense. But all the middle aged adults in the audience were listening intently and furiously taking notes, desperately trying to understand, well, Facebook. It’s just so hilarious to me that old people will pay money to hear a women with a Harvard degree talk about how kids talk to their friends on Facebook. Why not just bring in some students and talk to them? Seems to me like that would be much easier.

On a side note, internship victory for the day: I got the American Library Association representatives interested in tabling at our annual meeting! Alex and I were talking to two women from the ALA after the presentation and they kept telling us how they wanted to find ways to reach out to youth and teach them about privacy. I quickly jumped in and mentioned that we would be having our annual meeting in DC at the end of July, a whole conference full of young people that they could talk to. Success, we now have an organization interested in tabling at our annual meeting!