Children are increasingly subject to corporate surveillance practices where information about them is collected without their knowledge. As early adopters of new technology they are often assumed to be ‘digital natives’ with superior digital skills, but how much do they understand about commercial models and practices whereby data about their own internet activities are collected and used by corporations employing big data analytics? How much do parents know about these things and what do they currently do to mitigate corporate surveillance of their own and their children's data?
We conducted interviews with New Zealand parents and their teenagers in order to understand how they conceptualise and manage privacy risks online. We adopted a grounded approach to the interviews which revealed that parents and teenagers were more likely to think about privacy in relation to their own sharing of information typically done through social media. But beyond this, we were able to identify how they conceptualised privacy and privacy risks, and this allowed us to position their concerns and concepts in relation to their own data sharing, sharing data with institutions, and corporate surveillance. We were particularly interested in how parents thought about children and their personal information online, and whether they saw corporate surveillance of their own and their children's data as problematic.
Key findings can be viewed here, or at my blog post outlining my recent publication on the subject.
These key findings provide much needed critical assessment of the existing regulatory approaches which rely on consumers, parents and teenagers to assess and manage data protection for themselves. Findings suggest that as parents and teenagers do not perceive corporate surveillance to be harmful, they are unlikely to engage in strategies and decisions that limit or prevent corporate data mining of their personal information. As a result we need to call on businesses and policymakers to take a stronger approach to protecting children's data.