Social Networks could have more info about Generation Y than Government

This is entirely speculative post, as I don’t have access to US Government databases, yet the concept worth thinking about. I certainly don’t know the answer, and posed the question to my twitter community with a variety of responses, there wasn’t a clear agreeing side.

Government Data
The US Government has a wealth of demographic, workplace, educational, and financial information about it’s citizens, I’m sure there are other databases collecting information. Yet when I think about the information being created by ourselves on the social database (myspace, facebook, blogs) only a portion of the above data may be found, but an entirely different set of information can be found.

Social Database
Our research indicates that a majority of teens in North America are using social networks, in fact more than 2/3rds are active monthly users, and about 1/5th are daily users. We’re all aware of the stories of how teens are using these tools to communicate as their primary forms above phone, and even email.

Types of information commonly found in the Social Database of Gen Y:

Demographics
When I take a look at a few of my younger friends I see they’ve uploaded (willingly) information about their: age, sexual preference, political stance, work, school, email address, IM clients, phone numbers

Pschographics
They also share some of of their psyhographics: what they like, what motivates or saddens them, hobbies, music. With some time, you could eventually interept their profile to find some inner drivers and motivations. Status messages can really be telling, it’s obvious to me when someone is going through relationship pains.

Technographics
While not as complete as formal research, they also share their technographics (how they use technology) by looking at their activity, mini-news feed, see what type of applications they’ve downloaded and used. Beyond web use, you may see elements of consumption of cell phone, tv, and other technolgies present.

Relationship Network
Perhaps most importantly, they share their network information, you can see who has become their friends, what they think of each other (top friend apps) and eventually find nodes, influencers, and sneezers.

Privacy
Although much of this profile information is hidden, privacy continues to be a top concern, yet many of those afflicted with information sharing in a way they weren’t expecting have to always remember they were the ones who put that information out there in the first place. Even if someone decides to delete a profile, they comments, applications on third party sites, will leave a residual ghost that may be impossible to erase.

Considerations
Generation Y (and everyone else) should have a mental filter in their mind before publishing anything on the web. One should assume that this information (or pics) should be considered public, seen by those you don’t want to see, and here forever. While this may not always be the case, it’s a good filter to have.

  • Amy Murphy

    Jeremiah, great thoughts. I’ve also been thinking a lot about this – I’m a bridge between genX and genY, and as such, I have been engaged in thinking about our various generational traits, and how it impacts communication and work culture. Many of us have complicated relationships with privacy these days – and what I’m trying to learn is how to teach the filter – both for consuming the extensive information that comes out of the feeds, and for knowing what you should and (maybe should not) post.

    And then there’s the whole question of how that personal image you create – persona or real you – and how that impacts your professional identity. Someday I’ll actually get my thoughts collected about this…

  • Hey, what about those computer chips the government embeds in us? (Just kidding, I’m paranoid, but not THAT paranoid.)

    The way you pose this post (Social Networks could have more information….) is at the core of my concern: Who “has” the information — the user, or the entity that owns the Social Network. Obviously, we are now at a place in time when those entities believe the information is *theirs*.

    There are other entities – D&B, the credit bureaus, banks – that have more intimate information about us than the Social Networks, however, that data could easily be bumped up with the data we provide the Social Networks.

    However, getting back to your question.

    A few years of IRS forms could probably trump all the information contained in Social Networking OR credit report information.

  • Great post, thanks for the great analysis and insights

    Have you ever read William Gibson’s IDORU?

    what you say here is exactly the main gist of the plot, being able to deduce psychological and other motivations from people’s lifestreams online

    Spooky, indeed, but as you say, if you do not want to deal with complications later, just stay off the internet or mentally filter before you go posting that drunken table dancing exploits! 😉

  • This is freedom of information gone mad.

    Two majors points in relation to this great post.

    The first is the openess with which Gen Y provides personal information. It’s as if we never developed that filter you mention and it’s already beginning to cost us. Embarassing party pictures finding their way to the screens of prospective employers is just one example. The sooner we learn how valuable our personal identity is, the better.

    The second is from a pure marketing point of view. Of course personal information needs to remain just that – personal. But marketeers across the globe are desperate to get their hands on everything from your likes, dislikes all the way through to your inside leg measurement! It’s all with the aim of providing you, the consumer, with exposure to products your more likely to purchase.

    Recently the BBC’s Money Programme revealed there are companies actually listening in on private conversations on social networking sites. Frankly if I don’t know you, I don’t want you reading my ‘wall’. But what would I give to read yours…?

    Michael
    (31 inch inside leg….you see! We just can’t help it!)
    http://www.pr-media-blog.co.uk

  • Jeremiah,

    Has any of your research indicated what Gen Y *thinks* about the implications of the information they share on Facebook?

    My assumption (based on my own childhood) is that most of them haven’t considered the consequences of their actions. At that age, I certainly didn’t =)

    It’d be an interesting question to ask – “Gen Y, you share X, Y, & Z on your social networks which would enable person you don’t know to figure out 1, 2, 3, – are you comfortable with that?”

    @Rex – the body of law (in the US at least) appears to favor the networks. In any public setting it’s generally acceptable to take pictures of anything you can reasonably see that is also in public. A corollary could be drawn to any website that is publicly accessibly. Though IANAL.
    http://photojojo.com/content/tips/legal-rights-of-photographers/trackback/

  • Tony

    I’m pretty sure we have some of this data, we’ve done research on this topic before. Are you a client?

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  • @Mario – IDORU oriented concepts keep resonating with me as well.

    I’d add that Twitter as the social computer is really about being a game show contestant on stage once you have a large audience of followers. Sure, they might not really know you but as the audience they will seek to guide you from Door #1 to Door #2 or shout out the answers you need.

    The ribs example is a good one that taps into the historical wisdom. However, the crowd might not know if your daily special side item was a poor choice or if you are vegetarian. So, with the social computer, it is important at times to frame the exact question sometimes and narrow the scope.

    By contrast, having a small audience is more like the magic 8 ball. 🙂

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  • Saiko

    “The first is the openess with which Gen Y provides personal information.”

    That may be a wonderful thing. Maybe it’s grand that many people are choosing to move beyond the fears to simply be and express themselves freely and openly.

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  • Great post, thanks for the great analysis and insights

    Have you ever read William Gibson's IDORU?

    what you say here is exactly the main gist of the plot, being able to deduce psychological and other motivations from people's lifestreams online

    Spooky, indeed, but as you say, if you do not want to deal with complications later, just stay off the internet or mentally filter before you go posting that drunken table dancing exploits! 😉

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