Privacy in the digital age has grown from an afterthought to a hot topic in recent years due to the countless cyberattacks and leaks of consumer data that fill the news cycle. It is a complicated issue with many valid opinions on all sides; however, Gen Z has a unique viewpoint. Commonly defined as those born between 1996 and today, Gen Z has never known a world without cell phones that track their location and utilize Google’s free services in exchange for advertising data. We (I am one of them) have grown up exclusively in a post-privacy world and are aware that it is only just beginning.
Despite a unique understanding of the situation, Gen Z seems willing to give up even more privacy, posting more online than previous generations and having a digital presence more heavily integrated into our lives. This decision is not because we don’t worry about or value privacy; it is because we know we don’t have a choice. Our entire lives have revolved around Internet access and devices that required us to trade privacy for convenience. From a young age, we did what our peers and role models did – live our lives digitally. Now that the first of Gen Z are transitioning to adulthood, we are aware there is no going back -- no way to take back all the data that is out there on us.
The worry about privacy is far less concerning if everyone else’s life is public. According to new research by CommScope, two-thirds of Gen Z agreed that the age of personal privacy is over. Nearly every college graduate in 10 years will have hours of (potentially embarrassing) content of themselves online from their childhood, but it matters substantially less if every other college graduate has similar videos. Perhaps more importantly, the same two-thirds of respondents agreed that nothing you do online is private. While we may be willing to give up our privacy, we are aware of exactly what that entails, so we are less likely to be caught off guard when something supposedly “private” is seen by everyone.
Gen Z views giving up privacy as a trade-off, and while the benefits may seem minor now, the conveniences of the future are nearly impossible to imagine. New services will be offered to consumers, services specifically tailored to their needs and desires. For example, Gen Z might like the ability to use artificial intelligence to automate the parts of life that are the most boring. Or you can have groceries delivered without ordering because your fridge knew you were out of milk. Flowers can be delivered to your significant other on an anniversary because of a note in your calendar. An Uber arrives, even if you forgot to order one, because a dinner was on your schedule.
However, there may still be some hesitancy to gathering data and sharing information. For example, smartwatches aimed at kids were recently banned by a German regulator. Although this might not be a global trend to protect privacy, it does indicate that it is still important to many.
I believe that Gen Z will become more willing to trade privacy for convenience and a tailor-made experience to improve their lives as much as possible. The opportunities of what will come next are endless.