Who has more data about Gen Y: Facebook or the US Government?

Lately, I’ve been focusing on Baby Boomers, and even managed to anger and insult one of this prestigious generation. Now, I’ll turn my attention to Generation Y, also known as the millennials, digital natives or the MySpace/Facebook generation.

I realize that some don’t like this broad sweeping characterizations, but it’s important to look at the larger changes, we all realize that each individual is unique and different. Still with me? Let’s move forward and explore together.

I was speaking to a crowded room at Sun Microsystems a few weeks ago, and I posed this question to the room:

[Who has more information about Generation Y: Facebook or the US Government?]

I polled the room, and there was an overwhelming show of hands for Facebook being the dominant data holder. Next, I gave the example of my friend Teresa Valdez Klein (Pic: who I just saw in NY last week, and let her know about this upcoming post), who is an avid Facebook user and representative of Generation Y. She was an original Facebook user, she was a member while still in college. She self-expresses, she connects with others, and gives her opinion on Facebook and her fabulous blog.

Data found in Facebook about Generation Y

If you’re a Facebook friend of hers (I’m fortunate to have this honor) you’ll be amazed at how much information she shares. What does Teresa list?

Current city of residence
Former college
Dating status and preference
Birthdate (some include day, month, and year)
Political Views
Religions Views
Pictures –lots of ‘em.

Psychographics and Interests
Next, she lists stories, pictures, media and articles that she likes, including some of her own comments
Interests (over 12 items listed for each of the following)
Favorite Music
Favorite TV Shows
Favorite Movies
Favorite Books
Favorite Quotes

Her Conversations
If you’re connected to her, you can see all the interests that she has by learning from her applications and widgets on her profile page. Some people put maps to where they’ve been, ideal characteristics in a mate/job/friends, and learn about where they’ve recently been on wall comments about parties, travel, birthdays, and other comments from friends.

Her Network Info
Perhaps the most valuable, is that if you’re a friend with her, you know her social graph. Then she lists all the folks she’s friends with, and if you’re connected to them you can see all of this info.

Data that we know the US Government has about Generation Y

I’m in no position to state what level of detail they have, but here’s my best guess:

What does the US Government have?
Demographics including age, sex, where you’ve lived.
Income, Tax information
Recent purchases, loans, mortgages
Marriage status
Travel status from TSA
If you were a person of interest, I’m sure they could easily focus in on you through ATM, Credit card, and cell phone activity (GPS or Cell location tracking)

Marketers drool to get this info, where members self-submit to Facebook
The interesting thing is that all of this content was self-submitted
, and while marketers are hungrily trying to give away sweepstakes and prizes to get you to register, joiners (what Forrester calls those who use social networks) opt in much of this data and more. Marketers must froth at this opportunity.

Of course, all of this leads to even more questions:

  • Now the real question is, does the Government have access (and use) the information available from our telecommunications companies, and/or Facebook?
  • So what’s scarier, the fact that Generation Y and others are willing to share so much online, or the fact that others may have access to this information.
  • If you’re a conspiracy theory buff, (I’m not)

  • you’d enjoy this big brother style video
  • Gap in Generation Ideology: Extroverts vs Introverts
    Just yesterday, one of my colleagues (Gen X), who sends pictures of her baby to the local office expressed she didn’t want to bombard us with photos. I suggested she put her photos on Facebook, as it’s more of a ‘pull’ content strategy than ‘push’. She said it made sense, bit despite her knowing there are permissions and controls, it still made her uncomfortable for the “world to see”.

    Back to you: Who has more information about Generation Y: Facebook or the US Government?