[iDC] Why Parents Help Children Violate Facebook's 13+ Rule

John Sobol soboltalk at gmail.com
Tue Nov 8 15:20:52 UTC 2011

On Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 10:56 PM, Seeta Gangadharan <
seeta.gangadharan at yale.edu> wrote:

> Hi Lynn/all,
> Though survey research might be useful in ascertaining snapshots of
> low-income communities' sentiments towards surveillance and privacy, I'm
> not certain that a survey will capture breadth of harmful experiences
> that result from tracking or that are perceived to result from tracking.
> I'd love to hear someone who's working toward that end to suggest
> otherwise.

Hi all,

I would be interested to hear from people about this question too,
specifically, what are the actual harmful experiences that have resulted
from corporate tracking/targeting of teens/kids, as opposed to the
perceived or potential harmful experiences? I can think of the RIAA
lawsuits but would be keen to hear about others.

Personally, as a parent of 'tweens I sympathize with the perspective that
assumes that any and all tracking and targeting of our kids - corporate or
otherwise - is inherently dangerous and undesirable. But another part of me
wonders whether this is not an unfounded assumption.

For example, I am of the belief that the passion for privacy that is
inherent to literate culture and that arises out of the anonymity of
literate technology has been a key factor in destroying our perception of
the interrelatedness of all things, and thus in enabling our disastrous
delusion that it is OK to exploit the earth to death (ours). Perhaps our
desire to migrate anonymity into networked culture is a fundamental
mistake? Perhaps we need to maximize our interconnectedness and our
collective being, not as unknown atomic individuals but as individuals
unafraid of being known by our words and deeds (or profile), i.e. not
anonymous? Perhaps the price we pay for our targeted social networking is
targeted commercial networking? Perhaps it is inevitable and OK that our
economy should become personalized - as it once was in oral economies - and
our resistance to this stems from our allegiance to literate economic
principles and values that are based on impersonal standardization as
opposed to targeted personalization and interaction (automated or

Targeted marketing already serves us well (or does it? I would say it does)
on ebay and amazon and etsy etc. Besides, was listening to the radio not a
form of targeting, and of suggestive marketing, or watching TV or reading
the newspaper? We let our kids do those things, so the difference appears
to be in the personalized tracking/targeting capabilities not in the
pushing out of suggestions per se. Partly what I'm saying is, do I care if
personalized ads as opposed to generic ads are targeted at my daughter? No
I don't. Do I care that a vast store of data about her personal and
commercial (and when she gets older, professional) life is in the hands of
a company that could be hacked or that could sell it to a 3rd party for
non-commercial uses? Yes, definitely. So although I don't really care about
marketing,  I do care about security. So from my personal perspective,
perhaps the focus of researcher's concern should be less on the
not-so-nefarious practice of targeted marketing and instead on the
seemingly more alarming danger of personal data being exported for
non-commercial purposes?

Obviously the 'potential' harm is 1984ish and nightmarish. But perhaps the
'potential' benefits, on the other hand, are utopian. Or more likely both
are somewhat exaggerated. But I disagree with you Danah when you say that
the key determining factor is social norms. I think the determining factor
is the architecture of the technology, or the code as you/LL put it.
Because social norms change as a result of technological architectures and
not the other way around, despite the fact that it is heresy to say so.
(Unfortunately, the Myth of the Myth of Technological Determinism is even
more entrenched than the Myth of the Myth of the Digital Native!) So partly
what I am wondering is whether - given that the architecture of networked
culture promotes personalization and destroys anonymity, fighting that new
digital norm is a less useful activity than building constructively on it,
no matter how uneasy this may make those of us who were raised to cherish
and expect anonymity in commerce and elsewhere.

For example, I do not believe that the appropriate response to the RIAA's
litigious attacks on digital sharing is deeper hiding and sneakier sharing
tools, precisely because downloaders will always be trackable. I think the
appropriate response is collective self-empowerment in which millions of
people should come together and publicly acknowledge their actions as part
of a popular movement to challenge IP law and at the very least stop the
harmful music industry attacks on students and their families. Alternately,
bands should shed their labels and develop digitally-enabled fanclubs in
which every single fan is known by name and can be tracked and targeted, so
music and media can flow downstream to fans and money can flow upstream to
bands and the RIAA can be left out of it all entirely. That would be an
excellent example of benevolent targeted marketing and personalized
commerce, and I'd have no problem with my 12 year old sharing her personal
info in that context...

These are open-ended questions. Just thinking out loud and exploring
different perspectives...all comments welcome...

John Sobol
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