08/06/2013 05:45 pm ET Updated Oct 06, 2013

No Secrecy Allowed


This week, in the news, we have continued to hear more and more about the NSA phone and Internet surveillance programs leaked by the once airport-dwelling Edward Snowden earlier this summer. The Senate hearing on Wednesday and the NSA's declassification of some of the information illustrates frantic scramble to make sense of it all, to decide just where on the scale of importance between privacy and safety from terrorism our country should fall.

One important distinction, however, that I have failed to read thus far in any of the coverage is the difference of opinion between generations. More than ever before, teens and twenty-somethings are different from their parents insofar as they are familiar with putting their personal business out there for anyone to see. Yes, my mother uses Twitter and even my grandmother has an account on Facebook, but their generations were not raised in a context of social media; it is not an intrinsic part their group identity.

To be honest, I really don't care very much at all about the government reading my phone logs, emails and browser history. I have had many of the most personal or private conversations of my life over Facebook message, getting in fights with friends and talking to boys, that I realize in the end of the day are probably liable to be read by someone at Facebook. Many of the 98 percent of people age 18-24 who have such social media accounts probably feel the same way; 24 percent of Americans aren't confident in their ability to use privacy settings. Whether it is morally wrong for the government to feel entitled to our information is another issue, but the idea of someone in the NSA office who has never heard my name and will never meet me reading a conversation I once had does not negatively affect my life in any legitimate way. Granted, if I was a criminal or had anything to hide I might feel differently about that statement, but from what I understand the NSA has taken no legal action on anything they have read besides that of suspected terrorist activity.

I was talking with some of my coworkers yesterday about the iPhone app Lulu, which lets women anonymously rate men they know. When you open the app, you can scroll through a list of men, mostly your Facebook friends, and see ratings out of 10, broken down into categories like Manners and Sex with preset hashtags such as #LooksHotAllTheTime or #HasADog. Here is an example of extremely personal information put out into the world about a man without his knowledge or control, for friends and acquaintances to read rather than random government employees, yet no uproar over Lulu has made the national news. Why? Because our generation has become accustomed to such display of personal information for others to read.

My late grandfather was a man of prolific quotes: "Always leave yourself an option," "Love me; love my dog," but most relevant, "Never do anything you wouldn't want posted on the front page of the New York Times." Mine is a generation that necessarily has come to live by that advice (Facebook newsfeeds taking the role of a modern news outlet) and has thus grown accustomed to a lack of privacy with which our parents are less familiar.