Ryerson privacy expert finds new digital divide between young Canadians and "the older generation"

    New perception of social network privacy unique to young Canadians and
    largely incomprehensible to corporate world

    TORONTO, Sept. 4 /CNW/ - Online social networking has revolutionized the
way young Canadians communicate and share information with one another. Social
networking sites like Facebook and Myspace have become the preferred way of
communicating for many young Canadians. More than 90 per cent are members of
Facebook and socialize on it regularly, a level of technological penetration
that rivals the telephone. A recent study by Professor Avner Levin of Ryerson
University explores the attitudes and perceptions of young socialnetworkers to
privacy and security as well as the organizational policies, practices and
attitudes of business managers and executives on the use of online social
networks. Dr. Levin will present key findings of the research today at the
Youth Privacy Online: Take Control, Make it Your Choice! conference sponsored
by Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian at the Marriott
Eaton Centre in Toronto.
    "A digital divide exits between how youth perceive network privacy and
how the older generation of managers and executives perceive it," says 
Dr. Levin, co-author of the study, The Next Digital Divide: Online Social
Network Privacy. "Young people believe that information shared with their
personal social networks is considered private as long as its dissemination is
limited to their social network. Organizations, on the other hand, don't
recognize this notion of network privacy. They believe that any information
posted online is public and deserves no protection."
    The study found that while online social networkers are comfortable
posting large amounts of personal and private information, they do so
differentiating between destinations for that information. Friends, family and
work are three separate networks in their minds. Young people are concerned
that their personal information while freely shared within their network of
friends may end up in the hands of others such as family and managers who may
not be members of the same network.
    "This study helps us better understand how today's young people are using
this first generation of online social networks, and how they approach the
modern challenge of protecting their reputation online," says the Privacy
Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart. "It sheds light on how young
Canadians are interpreting the concept of privacy online - and how strongly
they differ from their parents and employers. We are proud to support
Professor Levin's research."
    The researchers found that although students who are closer to entering
the workforce full-time are more concerned about their reputation and the
difficulty in "scrubbing" their online electronic record clean, they do not
actually take steps to do so. Similarly, young women are more aware and
concerned about their privacy and reputation and therefore more active in
attempting to control access to their information.
    "What's particularly interesting is the attitude of young Canadians who
are entering the workforce at a time when organizations are embarking on the
replacement of the baby boomer generation," said Levin. "Canadian employers
are facing challenges in how to manage the use of online social networks with
this new generation of employees. It's worthy of note that none of the
employers represented had a policy specifically related to online social
networks unless they had experienced a related incident. All assume that their
existing policies on the use of the Web will handle it. On the other hand,
those who recognized the potential business advantage that social networking
technology brings saw the real challenge as how to discourage inappropriate
behaviour while encouraging appropriate use."
    More than half of young Canadians believe that work life and personal
life should be kept separate. While most feel strongly that it is
inappropriate for employers to use online social networks to check up on
employees or job applicants, they have far fewer objections to using online
social networks themselves for after hours socializing with fellow employees
and promoting goods and services to others.
    Dr. Levin and his team personally interviewed more than 2,000
undergraduate students in the largest quantitative research study to date on
the use of online social networks by young Canadians. He also conducted
sixteen in-depth interviews with top private and public sector executives
about their policies, practices and perceptions of online social networks,
including accessing employee or job applicant personal online information.
    Dr. Levin holds a Doctorate in Law and is the Chair of the Law & Business
Department at Ryerson's Ted Rogers School of Business Management and the
Director of the Privacy and Cyber Crime Institute, which also undertakes
research on privacy and cyber crime issues such as workplace surveillance,
biometrics, monitoring, identity theft, security breaches.
    The Next Digital Divide: Online Social Network was funded by the Office
of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's Contribution Program and through
in-kind contributions from the Dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management at
Ryerson University. The report can be downloaded at

    Ryerson University is Canada's leader in career-focused education,
offering close to 90 PhD, master's, and undergraduate programs in the Faculty
of Arts; the Faculty of Communication & Design; the Faculty of Community
Services; the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Science; and the Ted
Rogers School of Management. Ryerson University has graduate and undergraduate
enrolment of 25,000 students. With more than 64,000 registrations annually,
The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada's leading
provider of university-based adult education.

    For more information on the Youth Privacy Online: Take Control, Make it
Your Choice! visit http://verney.ca/ypo2008/

For further information:

For further information: To arrange an interview with Dr. Avner Levin
contact: Joyann Callender, Public Affairs, Ryerson University, Tel: (416)
979-5000 x 7161, E-mail: jcallend@ryerson.ca

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