Kate Aschkenasy helped create and facilitate “Teen Tank: Your Privacy – Your Rights?,” an AspenX seminar held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia in May 2016. AspenX is part of the newly launched Youth & Engagement Programs at the Aspen Institute. Below, Kate reflects on her experience at Teen Tank and what it was like to engage with peers with very different opinions on their right to privacy.
My experience with Teen Tank was unlike any other discussion I’ve ever had at school. The room was filled with 15 students, all of whom had completely different upbringings and backgrounds. With our differences, the room had an incredible sense of diversity of thought, which made the conversation both engaging and controversial. Students weren’t afraid to argue with each other, and these clashes of opinion brought out the most critical and evaluative thinking from each of us.
We talked about three different aspects of the right to privacy: the “Future of Privacy,” the “Future of Surveillance,” and the “Future of Speech.” To prepare, each student was required to read a packet of articles and watch a few videos to provide a basic knowledge of each topic. For example, for the Future of Privacy seminar, we were given an article about the FBI and Apple encryption dispute for their case to access the iPhones of the San Bernardino suspects. Prior to the seminar, I thought that I understood the issues involved in this case. I even had a strong opinion. However, hearing everyone else’s perspective made me consider new aspects of the case, making the decision on what seemed right much more difficult – and I am still making up my mind.
I learned an incredible amount about privacy rights and the Fourth Amendment. Each student had incredibly different perspectives, particularly when we discussed surveillance. We spoke about the topic of drones, a new technology that is extremely complicated to regulate. I noticed, for example, that students who lived in the inner-city, as opposed to those from in the suburbs, believed that drones should be much more highly regulated, which I found interesting. Why the differences in opinion? Again, in this instance, I had believed that I knew what was right, but arguments and thoughts from other students changed my opinion. I learned so much about the Fourth Amendment: We discussed its history, its application, and its nuances, but more important, I learned about how much each person’s environment informs their own distinct opinions.
I was most intrigued during our discussion on the “right to be forgotten.” Should petty crimes be eventually erased from criminal records to allow the person to learn from their past? Should a person should be allowed to get a second chance, or a clean slate, after a certain amount of time? Should a tweet or Instagram post be allowed to “disappear” (an almost impossible feat online) if it was a mistake? As millennials, everyone understood the devastating impact that social media can have on a person’s reputation. We know the embarrassment that chronicling days on Facebook or Twitter can cause. Each person brought different stories and views to the table, and though we never came to a final conclusion on what was right, we definitely gained insight into the pros and cons of one’s so-called “right to be forgotten.”
While I was already careful about what I posted online, I started to fully think about the consequences of my actions. Nothing is ever private, no matter how many rising seniors try to “change” their names on Facebook to avoid college admissions officers finding them. The things that I do online have an impact – even if I do believe in the right to be forgotten.
The legal complexities surrounding privacy, surveillance, and speech will be important for me as I grow older. I have already seen this manifest in my life as I have found myself discussing these issues with my classmates, and have reflected back to the Teen Tank discussion as a reference. This seminar not only taught me immensely about the Fourth Amendment, but also allowed me to understand how important diversity of thought is in discussions to have a well-balanced discussion. Without the wide range of voices around the table, I might have gotten stuck in my own opinions.
Kate is a senior at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, PA.