Digital technologies: what do young people really think?


As digital technologies facilitate the growth of both established and emerging organizations, the darker facets of the digital economy are beginning to emerge. In recent years many unethical practices have been revealed, including the seizure and use of consumer data, anti-competitive activities , and secret social experiments .

But what do young people who grew up with the internet think of this development? Our research project with 400 digital natives aged 19 to 24, shows that this generation also called _GenTech_ could well be the one that reverses the digital revolution. The results of our research point to frustration and disillusionment about how organizations have accumulated consumer information in real time, without their knowledge, and sometimes even without their consent.

Many people understand that their digital life has commercial value for a variety of organizations that use this information for targeting and customizing products, services and experiences.

This era of real-time accumulation and commercialization of user data has been dubbed surveillance capitalism and is a new era for economic systems

Artificial intelligence

A central pillar of the new digital economy is our interaction with artificial intelligence (AI) and learning algorithms. Our results show that 47% of the “GenTech” do not want the AI ​​to monitor their lifestyle, their purchases and their financial situation to recommend purchases.

In fact, only 29% see this as a positive interaction. On the contrary, most want to be autonomous in their decisions and have the opportunity to explore new products, services and experiences in complete freedom.

As individuals in the digital age, we are constantly negotiating with technology to take or give control. This pendulum effect reflects the constant battle between humans and technology.

My life, my data?

Our results also reveal that 54% of “GenTech” are concerned about organizations’ access to their data, while only 19% do not worry about this. Despite the European regulation on data protection introduced in May 2018, this still concerns them, based on the belief that too much personal data is in the possession of a small group of global companies like Google, Amazon or Facebook. About 70% feel this.

Recently, Facebook and Google announced that the privacy policy is a priority in their interaction with users. Both companies have faced a public uprising against their lack of transparency in how they collect and store consumer data. It’s not that long ago that a hidden microphone was found in one of Google’s alarm systems.

Google plans to offer a function to erase historical data of geographic location of users, history browsing and use of apps, and extend its ” incognito mode ” to Google maps and the finding aid. This will allow users to cut off any follow-up.

At Facebook, he is keen on CEO Mark Zuckerberg to reposition the platform to make it a communication platform dedicated to the protection of privacy , built on principles such as private interactions, encryption, privacy and security. security, interoperability (communication between App and platforms that belong to Facebook) and secure data storage. This will be a difficult turnaround for a company that relies on its agility to convert its user information into opportunities for highly personalized advertising.

Confidentiality and transparency are a critically important topic for today’s organizations – both those who grew up online and those who grew up online. While GenTech wants organizations to be more transparent and accountable, 64% also think they can not do much to protect their data. Online tracking is seen as an integral part of digital consumption.

Despite this, more and more, the revolt is preparing below the surface. Gentech people want to appropriate their data. They see them as a valuable commodity, which they think they can use in negotiations with organizations. 50% of them would willingly share their data with companies, if they got something back, for example a financial incentive.

Rearrange the balance of powers

GenTech seeks a transactional relationship with organizations. This reflects an important change of attitude, from a point where free access to digital platforms was the “product” (in exchange for data), now wanting to exchange this data for specific benefits.

This has created an opportunity for companies to empower consumers and give them back control over their data. Many companies now offer consumers the opportunity to sell data they agree to share or participate in paid research. A growing number of companies are joining this group, including , Killi and Ocean Protocol .

Sir Tim Berners Lee , the creator of the web, has also looked for a way to shift power from organizations and institutions to consumers and citizens. The Solid platform offers users the ability to take charge of where their data is stored, and who can access it. It is a form of re-decentralization.

The Solid POD (Personal Online Data Storage – Online Data Personal Storage) is a secure place on a secure server, or private personal server. Since the data is stored centrally and not by the developer of an App or on an organization’s server, users can choose to give an App access to their personal data. We consider that this is potentially a way to let individuals regain control of both technology and business.

GenTech has realized that the reality of connected life has important consequences for their privacy and is starting to rebel, while questioning organizations that have shown little concern and continue to apply exploitative practices.

These signs of revolt are not surprising. GenTech is the generation that has the most to lose. They face an intertwined future of digital technology, both in their personal and private lives. With more and more pressure on organizations to become more transparent, it is time for young people to take a step forward.

Author Bios: Dr. Mike Cooray is Professor of Practice, Hult International Business School and Dr. Rikke Duus is a Research Associate and Senior Teaching Fellow at UCL