MANILA, PHILIPPINES — When we talk about Gen Z and young millennials, we think of them glued to their phones 24/7 chatting with friends, exchanging memes, shopping at online stores, tinkering with the latest app or technology, and customizing their online experiences—basically living their full lives online, data privacy be damned. But this reputation may not be as accurate. The people who grew up amid the rise of social media, smartphones, and access to information aren’t really inclined to give up their privacy for all of that.
Now, they’re also telling why everyone should get smarter about their online activities and be more discerning on the platforms and apps they use amid a spike in bank account theft, hacking, identity theft online, and big tech companies’ mismanagement and abuse of user data for profit in recent years.
Erika Kristensen, a 24-year-old host, radio jock and TVC model, admits that being a victim of cyberhacking made her review her online privacy. “I’ve seen firsthand a handful of people who were victims of identity theft, stalking, and harassment, which I’ve personally experienced as well. Safety should always come first,” she says.
In effect, 82% of young consumers say that privacy is a right and not a privilege, youth research and insights expert YPulse in a 2021 report said. Multinational professional services network Deloitte, moreover, said that consumer expectations online are at an all-time high and they also demand control over their personal data, adding that 69% of customers do not believe organizations are doing everything they can to protect their data.
Jose Unso, 30, pilot and former team captain of the De La Salle University Green Trackster, feels the same way and says he has been more careful in choosing the platforms or apps he uses to send information about his finances and private life. “I think the best solution for me is to stop using or lessen my interactions with apps that have a bad reputation in keeping our private matters and securing our data,” he says.
Milka Romero, 27, entrepreneur and CEO at Sushi Nori, also expresses her desire to be more proactive on strengthening her privacy online. “Most of all our interactions with work, friends, and family are done online and it would be great to have better control on our intangible data,” she adds.
Following the increase in security breaches and data privacy abuses the past few years, Gen Z and young millennials have eventually learned to strike a balance between privacy and their constant desire for connection and a more personalized online experience. Younger people are also getting smarter about which tech companies to trust.
For 23-year-old executive producer, singer-songwriter, and actor Sophie Reyes, the reviews of the people she knows matter when choosing an app. “One of the main factors I consider in deciding whether I should use an app or not is if it’s suggested by friends and family,” she says. 26-year-old athlete and fitness influencer Wellington “Beef” Co Jr. takes it a bit further by checking the reputation of the app or platform when it comes to data security. “I research on ways to disallow or limit their access,” he says.
The younger generations’ demand for security in their personal spaces is especially evident in how they handle their online conversations. This is also why they are choosing to stay connected with their family and friends through encrypted messaging apps—which promises that no third party can read or listen in to their chats and calls—satisfying younger people’s resolve to keep their conversations as private as possible, YPulse also recently reported.
One of the most known communication apps that offer encrypted messaging is Viber, one of the most secure messaging apps in the world. Unlike other messaging apps, it has end-to-end encryption by default. Users don’t have to activate encryption to ensure that no one will be able to read personal chats or listen in to calls. With Viber, only the sender and recipient will be able to read or hear those messages. Since chats are protected by end-to-end encryption by default, it has no access to all that data, making it impossible for the company to sell their users’ personal data for advertising purposes.
Viber also has other features to empower users to further protect their data privacy. It allows users to delete messages for all. It also has Disappearing Messages, which gives users the power to set a self-destruct timer for every message in their chat so that after the message is read, it is automatically deleted from the Viber chat—all sides of the conversation. Viber users can also hide chats from their chat list, which they can only access with a PIN.
Now that the younger generations have started to understand the implications of their online activities on their privacy, tech companies should also start to put in the work to make sure their users’ information is secure at all touch points. While others are slow to keep up with this new yet fair consumer demand, some tech companies like Viber have made sure to put their users’ privacy a top priority—giving Gen Z, young millennials, and all others a choice to protect themselves and their data from threats and abuses.