They just don’t get it. Five zillion Presidential candidates (or so it seems) and not one in tune with what young Americans want from the Internet. Millennials today view going online as a core component of their identity and existence. It’s an extra appendage, their personal concierge. They use it to purchase things, pay bills, make dinner reservations, date, watch shows, post pictures, book hotels; even control the thermostat and lighting at home. All they ask in return from service providers is a little empowerment, mainly the right to control their own personal information. You’d think that one candidate would recognize the opportunity here to capture a major voting bloc by showing concern about an important issue to an entire generation. But they don’t, and come election time, they may regret it.
In recent debates, both the Republicans and Democrats have been asked about online privacy and all candidates have mumbled nonsensical responses about the mess in Washington, immigration, and saving the middle class. What they don’t offer is something substantive that pertains to online users. When Jeb Bush was asked by Fox Business host Neil Cavuto about Tim Cook’s stake on privacy and what to do with encryption, he responded:
“…there needs to be a complete dialogue with the large technology companies. They understand that there’s a national security risk. We ought to give them a little bit of a liability release so that they share data amongst themselves and share data with the federal government, they’re not fearful of a lawsuit.”
This is symptomatic of almost all the Republican candidates. Give the technology companies leeway to share your data with each other and government leaders. In other words, protect the sin and the sinner.
In the most recent Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders talked about how Internet privacy laws lag behind the technology. True, but he didn’t offer a concrete opinion about how to solve the problem. Clinton vaguely suggested that technology companies and the government have some kind of summit. Then what? Fellow candidate Martin O’Malley said searching through our data is a violation of the Fourth Amendment and that the government should be required to use a warrant to look at our private information. Also true, but that still doesn’t answer the question of protection of our rights against Facebook, Google, Instagram and everyone else who makes our private information public or AT&T and Verizon who simply sell our information to the government/NSA for the snazzy price of $300M per year.
Presidential candidates, here are the facts (read them, learn them, and own them): first, when it comes to online privacy, young Americans are the most in-tunegeneration. They strive to protect their privacy and limit the amount of personal information available about them online. They change privacy settings, edit their social media comments, and take steps to mask their online identities more than any other demographic.
Second, in spite of Millennials being the most diligent practitioners of online privacy, they share more personal information online than any other generation. That’s because they understand the Internet better than anyone else and want to use the apps that simplify and better their lives. If someone, as in any breathing candidate, would speak to this generation and say “Privacy versus features shouldn’t be a choice” and that “I want my policies to jibe with how you live your life,” millions of people would listen.
Third, statistics show that the age 18-29 demographic has the lowest turnout for Presidential elections, typically around 20 percent. In 2008 however, that stat jumped to 40 percent. Why? Because of the power of Obama: his use of social media and his ability to woo the younger generation with a message that resonated with them. In today’s world, that is how you win elections. Stop the mudslinging, the finger pointing, and the race profiling. Drop the vacuum of false promises and fluffy answers to meaningful issues. Stop ignoring a large piece of the American population and make your platform truly inclusive for everyone. That’s the golden electoral ticket.
Millennials get up in the morning and reach for their devices before their toothbrush. They eat lunch together, texting in one hand while picking up their food in the other. At night, they turn out the lights before putting down their smartphones and tablets. That is the only world they have ever known and by all these candidates ignoring it, all it does is reveal how out of touch they are with the pulse of young people in this country. A worthy candidate would know better and respond. Are there any out there?