Privacy in Our Families

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Mary Madden, senior researcher at the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, talks about how teens engage with privacy online, and how parents and families can navigate digital lives and privacy concerns.



Mary Madden

Comments [17]

Janet Bloom from Peekskill, NY

Retrieving The Significance Of Privacy

As an admirer I was eager to hear how you would treat this all-important subject. You deserve high honors for giving it two hours, and approaching it so diligently in relation to many areas of our life.

I’m interested in it largely because my efforts to get my healthy self out from under my dreadful, shameful self led me to see that becoming transparent to myself and being transparent with others is invaluable, especially since the sense of privacy we kowtow to often covers a degrading secrecy.

The picture of relations between teenagers and parents I was left with by your segment bears witness to this problem. I see the DO NOT DISTURB signs on teenagers’ doors, and parents’ deep concern for their children defenselessly shut out.

This raises these questions:
What does our current sense of privacy protect? That which we should be ashamed of.
What does it promote? Defensiveness. Exclusivity.
What does it ignore? That which is honorable within and between us.
What does it defeat? Communication. Seeing how to be at one.
What is missing? Any clear, substantive understanding of personal authority; what personal authority consists of; how it works; how it brings personal and mutual respect to life; why it is all we have – if we choose to discover and regain it – to defend ourselves against fruitless personal power struggles and the surveillance state now overtaking us.

I’ve learned that we can now see exactly how impressions made on us at an early age shape our attention spans, performance, health and outlook. We can also see exactly how to outgrow deleterious reactions to those impressions, instead of bearing the burden of them throughout our lives, and passing them on to our offspring.

Knowing this, I’ve wanted to go public with my private life to show how I’ve enjoyed outgrowing the nearly disastrous consequences of my family’s ignorance of inner life. My hope is that my triumphant inside stories will interest others in discovering that we can all see and enjoy helping each other see our way clear of the troubles we’ve seen. We can thus see where other people are coming from far more accurately, and see how to relate to them more supportively, in ways that are conducive to self-and-mutually illuminating and transformative conversations.

Your show has shown me what I am up against: that interest in our inner lives – often called our private lives – in how they shape us, in how our ignorance of them does us in, is now out the window, since we’re giving our minds over to “brain science” and keeping up with the Internet.

We need to see what it is that can shine out of our private lives enough to make them worth protecting; or our personal authority will continue to erode, giving way altogether to the external and electronic authorities now overtaking us.

I wish more power to you to do all within your great crowd sourcing power to engage people ever more deeply and clearly in this subject.

Mar. 05 2014 07:58 AM

Dear Brian Lehrer,

Great show on privacy today! Your guest/callers hit the nail on the head in many respects.

Consumer/location data is an extremely powerful set of information that, cumulatively, can be used for risk analysis or to predict behavior in a way that is eerie almost chilling. But, this just the tip of the iceberg. Seemingly innocuous information about a person can be used, misused, misappropriated or exploited and personally identifiable information (PII) tied to student records is no exception.

With recent administrative changes to FERPA, there are virtually no protections afforded to student education records and parents have been deprived of the right to withhold consent to protect their own children from dissemination of PII and student information.

In my home state, NYSED will have you believe that InBloom and a longitudinal data system (LDS) is necessary and warranted to create personalized learning for students so that schools can communicate with one another and within districts for ease and efficiency. NY claims that this info uploaded to a cloud will help schools create programs and lessons tailored to a students needs. They also claim that the info will help from a risk asseddment and management perspective.

Data will be reported in an “electronic transcript that follows each student from Pre K through to career.” The data will be accessible by and reported to virtually all State and County agencies eventually. There are many exceptions in FERPA and the scope of those “authorized” to access info has been broadened and/or remains vague and unclear. Which means, a lot of employees/volunteers/authorized personnel (which means essentially anyone affiliated with the organization) of these agencies will have access to sensitive or protected info without parent consent or knowledge.

Courts seal youthful offender records so that offenses don’t cloud and follow perpetrators after they have served their time.

Doctors have HIPAA privacy laws and there are serious consequences for violating HIPAA.

But, education records do NOT have the same protection and there is virtually no recourse if info is misappropriated or exploited. Unsavory PII can tarnish a student for life.

NY is the only State left who maintains a relationship with InBloom. All other States and many businesses have fled over student privacy concerns. This speaks volumes.

What has not been discussed on your show, yet, are the above and related student privacy concerns. There is no reason for student info, PII and education records to become State fodder. The transcript and rap sheet attached to each of our children as a result of data mining is positively Orwellian!

I join Allison from Port Washington in requesting that you kindly cover this subject on your show. It is a most relevant and worthy topic and would be most appreciated.

Thank you,
Anna Sothvny

Mar. 04 2014 10:59 PM
DR from NYC

Why don't we reverse the question? What if it's the parents who are divulging a lot of information about their kids? I know a lot of new parents who blog/talk too much and way TMI on Facebook that I know one day their kids would be like, wtf, mom/dad? One day day those pictures and musings willow used against their kids digital life when they are old enough to be taunted by peers, i.e. boys in tutus, naked baby pictures etc. I for one, do not or rarely post anything of my daughter on Facebook. And one day when she is old enough to join a social network, she will be schooled by us parents about that so called thing called family privacy.

Mar. 04 2014 08:28 PM
gene from NYC

I also understand multiple identities. Totally logical, especially Facebook-wise.

I HATE it when I'm told online,

"Click here to share this great porno pic with all your family and friends on Facebook!"

You can't hide from a lot of these marketing hunter/gatherers, but you _may_ be able to get them to make wrong moves--by muddying your info.

I got a call from a relative the other day, "Happy Birthday! I didn't know you had the same birthday as my brother!"

"Where'd you hear it was my birthday?"


"Ha! I fooled them!"

So anyone trying to steal my info, amassing data from FB and other places, will, hopefully, make a detectable misstep with Soc Sec, IRS or whoever..

Mar. 04 2014 12:54 PM
Allison from Port Washington

The threat to our privacy and the privacy of our children are not limited to social media, they are also from our government. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) is participating in a project called inBloom. NYSED is collecting 400 pieces of personally identified information about every public and charter school child in NY State and storing this highly sensitive information in a database provided by a third-party vendor without parental consent. Please help Stop the New York State Education Department (NYSED) from sharing confidential information without parental consent and violating the privacy rights of students and parents. Sign the petition at

It is critical that parents and other citizens become more informed about issues of student data privacy. You can learn more here Sadly, this is just one example of these type of threats. When parents enroll their children in school these are not issues that most even think about. Unfortunately, we need to. I hope NPR and Brain Lehrer will explore these issues.

Mar. 04 2014 12:53 PM
gene from NYC

To Teens (and older):

I know you don't want to take advice from a 70 year old, but still--we all have the same equipment, the same biological drives, just as always.

THIS is new--VERY new. But still, some of the old rules still apply.

Sending/posting pics:

Never give out a pic, electronically or otherwise. Not only because it'll be accessible forever, 15 secs or no, but also for your sex life.

Here's what to do if he wants a sexy pic of you:

Make a print out. Let him see it for 15 sec., and take it back. Period.

Believe me, he'll be thinking of nothing but you as he goes to bed every single night for WEEKS. When he sees you at school, he'll be nuts!

And you really don't have to go full monty. Tease. Tantalize. Let him imagine. He LOVES imagining. Sex is, to a great extent, in the brain, and that foreshadowing of delights to come some day will _always_ be with him; and if in the future you do get together, when, after a few years, the drive diminishes as it always does--THAT memory, that powerful yearning and imagining, will help keep things fresh.

Sports Illustrated makes a fortune with its Swimsuit Issue, everyone fully clothed (sorta)--even as there's gazillions of pics of fully naked beautiful women out there.

Why? Men LOVE imagining.

So why deny him that? Let him. Let him imagine you. Believe me, it will have a much larger and longer-lasting positive impact than baring all--which will only have a long-lasting negative impact.

Mar. 04 2014 12:44 PM
r. rabenstein

Yesterday's News: Man filed age discrimination suit vs. a private school. He won an $80,000 settlement conditioned on confidentiality. His teenage daughter posted it on Facebook and the school rescinded the settlement. Very expensive lesson for all these kids who think posting all kinds of personal information is no big deal.

Mar. 04 2014 12:04 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Personally, I stay off social media and try to stay off the grid as much as possible. I don't see how anyone can "force" anyone else to participate, school or no school. I regularly turn down invitations to LinkedIn and just e-mail the person who invited me that I am declining their invitation because I don't use social media.

Insofar as what teens publish on line now, it doesn't seem to have occurred to any of you that these teens may well be interviewed for a job by someone who also posted an indiscretion on social media. It is now such a prevalent thing to do - even among adults (notable politicians, for example) - that anyone who applies for a job these days and is turned down because of something s/he posted on social media could probably go on line and find something equally indiscreet that was posted by HR. Ha ha ha.

Finally, it is, or should be, part of parenting to limit their minor children's exposure to internet communications and to explain to them the risks of what they may do when they leave the nest, as it were. I would NEVER allow my minor children to use social media because they have no idea of the consequences, some of which are too complex for them to understand. For example, if a 12 year old girl thinks it's amusing to send a nude photograph of herself to someone, she is actually trafficking in child pornography and will not only have a record herself, but will be sharing this vastly illegal activity with anyone to whom she sends it, even if it was sent to them without their knowledge or consent.

Mar. 04 2014 12:00 PM
RosieNYC from NYC

I have a 21 year old boy. When my son was little, I used to talk to him, talk to him and talk to him again about all this stuff hoping when the time came he would make the right choice. One day we were talking and he said that when he was about to do something stupid, he would hear my voice telling him not to do it but being a teenager, could of times he ignored it or was superseded by his friends' opinions...Anyhow, the point is all you can do is talk to them in a friendly and honest manner and help them become good critical thinkers. They do listen!

Mar. 04 2014 12:00 PM
John A

Re: suicidality on tumblr
Absolutely gut wrenching stuff. If there was a staff of 1000 at an Internet suicide prevention hotline it might not cover it. But how much is playtime and how much is real threat? Another problem: is this an echochamber increasing net sociopathy? When you see a post about suicide with 40 Thousand reblogs, for example...

Mar. 04 2014 11:49 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Facebook is going down, quietly but surely.

Mar. 04 2014 11:46 AM
J from nj

The social landscape is moving faster than you know... Teens have abandoned facebook. My 16 year old says no one in her gigantic school is on facebook anymore. Snapchat, instagram, god knows what else. They are always one step ahead of you, mom and dad.

Mar. 04 2014 11:37 AM
Trish from NJ

I block my parents from my posts. You can create/customize audiences for posts.

Mar. 04 2014 11:35 AM
John A

Danah Boyd had a 5 minute segment on NPR last week:
She said that they create multiple identities and live multiple secret lives. Absolutely what I've seen.

Mar. 04 2014 11:34 AM
JT from NJ

Danah Boyd's research is quite enlightening on this issue. Highly recommended for all parents out there.

Mar. 04 2014 11:33 AM


FYI, hands-free devices are NOT safe. All distractions from driving increase the chances of being in an accident.

The safest way to call/receive a call when on the road is to pull over into a rest area, gas station, etc., put the transmission into Park, set the parking brake & then return the call or make the needed call.

Mar. 04 2014 10:49 AM
Rose from CT

My first instinct is to retain privacy but then I think about ALL those people i see everyday, driving on the highway while txt'g and talking on the phone without a hands free devise.

Mar. 04 2014 10:07 AM

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