youth ministry

NSA, Online Privacy, and Youth Group

Norwegian Shipowners Association
Oh, wrong NSA.

Like a lot of people, I’ve been following the news about NSA leaks. And I’ve enjoyed a fair amount of banter on the topic, which leaves me full of contradiction.

  • I don’t like that the NSA may be keeping a database on me, who I call, do business with, connect with, etc. 
  • I do like that the NSA knows who bad guys are talking to, are friends with, do business with, etc.
  • I laugh at Jon Oliver pointing out the hypocrisy of the GOP, the same people who are cool with the NSA knowing who calls who are also against a gun registry… you know, devices which could be used to commit a crime.
  • But I also laugh at the hypocrisy of the left making fun of the right when they had a field day about this same stuff when Bush was in office.

Your Perceived Privacy

Everyone would like to assume that their private communications are just that, private. It’s what I call your perceived privacy. This is one of the big learnings people walk away with when they read A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media. You don’t have online privacy, you have perceived online privacy. It’s in the best interest of these companies to let you think that everything is private when, in fact, all of your data is commoditized and sold to marketers who ultimately fund social media.

To those who freak out I ask, “Did you actually read the user agreement when you created your Google account, Facebook profile, Twitter handle, or cell phone contract?” Of course you didn’t. you assumed that all of that stuff was private, the company is quick to let you think that it’s all private.

But if you break a law? You discover how easy it is for law enforcement to create a digital fingerprint of who you’ve been calling and texting, who you’ve been chatting with on Skype, on and on. All of those records could become public.

And if you are using a computer or phone that belongs to your employer… well, the Supreme Court has ruled that your employers has 100% access to all of that data, even your personal emails and texts, because your employer technically owns the devices and the network you are using. Don’t like that? Don’t use their stuff.

Want to have a truly private conversation? Go old school. Talk to someone face to face.

Yoda the youth pastor
Bet you didn’t know Yoda was a youth pastor, did ya?

Youth Group

Privacy is big to middle and high schoolers. It’s always been a big deal. But it’s especially big right now because it seems like every slip of the tongue, bad thing they do, or anything notable ends up online as a Facebook status, tweet, or even YouTube clip.

Youth group can be a different place. A place of safety. A place of respite. A place of other. And a place of trust.

Don’t screw it up. Make your youth group the unNSA and you’ll win their hearts forever.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

3 replies on “NSA, Online Privacy, and Youth Group”

Great post Adam! How do we as youth workers decide when to call a student on what we see or read on social media? I totally spy on my students! Sometimes I call them on their garbage, but other times I let it slide. Thoughts?

I think there’s a difference between being “friends” and “creeping.” If they’ve friended you on w/e network, I think you just ask and see what the boundaries are. But if they haven’t… I just wouldn’t go creeping on them.

Leave a Reply