We’ve all been to Facebook.com, or at least are familiar with its workings. The handy little social widget lets you track down the cute girl from math class or that guy you met at a party. It’s a veritable database of personal information about nearly every student on campus. Facebook can be a great tool for keeping track of your friends, making new ones, sharing pictures, and communicating. It is a great diversion and a genuinely useful application. When used with the right purposes, that is.
But at what point does the information submitted to the website become too much? When the RA staff finds the pictures of just exactly what you did last weekend? When a potential employer logs on to check up on their job applicants? When a hacker uses the information to assume your virtual identity? When a stalker or sexual predator uses your information to solicit you? Let’s face it, the internet can be a pretty scary place, especially when identity is involved.
Take the recent case of the students expelled from school for alleged misbehavior at an off-campus party. The invitation to the party was sent via a Facebook announcement. Is it possible that the invitation also fell into the hands of the school administration who chose to step in and administer discipline?
It is unclear whether Facebook played a role in this incident, but it brings up the point that the information submitted to the website is not as private as most students seem to think. Anyone with an e-mail address ending in “.edu” can access your pictures, your messages, your profile, and anything you submit.
This means that in addition to your fellow students,
your profile is potentially being viewed by your RAs, your professors, the school administration, potential employers and supervisors. It is a public site full of voluntarily-submitted personal information that can include everything from hobbies and interests to addresses and telephone numbers, as well as documented evidence of any wrongdoing or illegal activities you’ve perpetrated in the past.
The school has no official policy on the use of Facebook, though according to Associate Dean of Student Affairs Carol Boucher, “the fact that students put private information and photographs on that website where any number of people can access
it concerns us greatly.” The golden rule of social network sites like Facebook is simply to follow common sense. Don’t provide private information, like your address and phone number, unless you’re comfortable with every stalker and identity thief in the country potentially having access to it. Don’t post pictures of yourself participating in any illegal activity, like underage drinking, unless you realize that every professor and RA in the school can see you. As long as you realize that the private information you provide isn’t exactly private when displayed on a public server, and you stick with your common sense, you should be fine.