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Online Privacy Expectations Differ Dramatically Between Gen Z and Older Generations

New study reveals just how important online privacy and security is to the youngest generation

Gen Z is the first true cloud-based generation. Let’s break that down.

This doesn’t mean that Gen Z, also known as Generation Z, iGen, or Centennials, has their “heads in the clouds.” In fact, quite the opposite. This young generation is already being hailed as a surprisingly pragmatic and hardworking generation. What it means is that Gen Z are coming of age only knowing cloud-based storage. Whether it’s saving photos or working collaboratively on documents for school projects, they take for granted the fact that they don’t have to lug around floppy disks or worry about losing a flash drive.

Online Privacy Expectations

This reliance on the cloud as a storehouse for information is having a profound effect on how Gen Z thinks about online privacy. Their dependence on digital connectivity means that they have always had experience making their private information in some form or fashion necessary to use online.

Millennials may have been digital natives, but Gen Z brings a more powerful native relationship: cloud-based computing,” says Jason Dorsey, Gen Z and Millennial Expert and President at The Center for Generational Kinetics. “This untethered relationship to information gives them more native freedom, computing muscle and influence than Millennials. It also gives them a different natural viewpoint on what is most important when it comes to technology solving your problems.”

Gen Z is also coming of age in a time when hacking is no longer just done by lone techies in a basement but is now led by large entities and has been the subject of numerous movies, news headlines, and has caused the financial ruin of many average Joes. Given that Gen Z has always been online, meaning that they have always been digitally vulnerable, we wanted our study to investigate how they feel about online privacy.

The Center’s groundbreaking study on Gen Z and Technology uncovered that Gen Z is more concerned about online privacy than Millennials but less concerned about online privacy than Generation X or Baby Boomers.

For example, the study found that 63% of Gen Z is concerned when it comes to protecting their identity when paying with a debit or credit card online or in a retail store. This is more than Millennials, 58% of whom said the same.

Interestingly, Gen Z is more concerned than Millennials about protecting their identity when sending and receiving messages online. Thirty-eight percent of Gen Z expresses concern over this, while only 29% of Millennials have the same concern. This increased concern for privacy goes all the way into the day-to-day reality of Gen Z and their education. A full 38% of Gen Z are worried about protecting their online privacy and security when at school.

But the twist here is that of all the generations, Gen Z has the LEAST concern about their privacy when it comes to paying with mobile apps, such as Venmo, and using social media. This makes sense, though, considering how tied Gen Z is to their smartphones. The reality that Gen Z has more trust than any other generation in these areas could support why Gen Z has been the fastest adopters of mobile payment apps as well as social media.

Whereas Gen Z has basically always known about mobile payment apps and social media to be a part of their coming-of-age experience, every other generation has come to them later in life, which could explain their concern about privacy using those technologies.

It will be exciting to see how this balance of caution and willingness to use new technology plays out as Gen Z continues to enter the workforce and adulthood. We suspect it will cause many industries to adjust their privacy policies, but also that there will be much innovation in the coming years.

Watch the video featuring the best findings from our national study on Gen Z and technology here

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