Sep 072010
 September 7, 2010  Posted by  Misc

Interesting interview of Sam Altman, Loopt’s 25-year-old co-founder by Bloomberg contributor Antone Gonsalves in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Altman’s comments on age and privacy were particularly interesting to me:

Why have location-based services such as Loopt failed to reach folks over age 30? Why haven’t mainstream consumers embraced the technology?

Time and again, people over age 29 who are distrustful of technology make two mistakes. They overweight the downside risks. They can’t articulate why it’s so bad to have a photo on the Internet, but they’re uncomfortable with it, and they underweight the value. They don’t see enough upside. As it becomes more mainstream in the younger demographic, the older demographic takes note and experiments a little and eventually embraces it. We’ve seen this with five or six technologies on the Internet: instant messaging, photos, and now location. We have noticed over the last six months a trending of our average age upward.

Do you see a difference in privacy settings between older and younger users?

Younger people tend to share their location with more people more of the time. The default for the average younger person is, “I’m going to share with everybody and block these few people.” Older people tend to share their location with fewer people more of the time. Their default is, “I’m blocking everyone, but then I’m going to allow these few people.”

Why the difference?

Young people are more comfortable with technology. We’re the first generation to grow up on the Internet. We don’t know anything else; we’re just sort of used to it. And also, we value our friends knowing where we are. We value knowing more about our friends. And I’m not sure why that is.

I don’t think the difference is due to comfort or discomfort with technology, although I admit it took me a while to move away from Windows 3.1 years ago. 🙂 As one of the “older people,” I think we just have more experience and realize that sometimes, something that sounds like a good idea may turn out to have an unforeseen downside. Why rush to a new service where any bells may not be un-ringable until you reflect more on whether the upside really outweighs any potential downside? Remember Windows Millenium and CE? Those of us who were slow to jump to change or “new” were glad we did.

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