People will post just about anything on social networking sites. Sites such as Facebook and MySpace have become popular networks for socializing and sharing pictures. What many people may not know is the risk associated with sharing personal information through social networking on the internet.
The information you post on Facebook or MySpace is being used in ways you may never think of. People all over the country have lost their jobs and failed to get new ones because of the content on their page.
One example of this is Jenny Heigh. Heigh was the women’s soccer coach at Northwestern University. The women’s soccer team was caught hazing their freshman, which was against school policy. Pictures of the hazing were posted on the player’s Facebook pages. The players were suspended from the team and Heigh was forced to resign.
When many people post pictures on Facebook they do not realize it is a completely public domain and will be out there forever. Even when you take your pictures off of your page, the owners of the site still own them. For instance, you can still Google the Northwestern hazing incident and pictures of the girls will come up, even though they probably took the pictures off of their personal pages.
Other examples include athletes losing scholarships because of alcohol-related posts or pictures on their page and employees fired over comments. In America, the monitoring of social networking sites for content that may interest employers is now so routine that software is being put on the market that will automate the process.
Privacy specialist William Malcolm of Pinsent Masons law firm said, “Rather than looking at what information constitutes a risk, it’s better to think, ‘Who am I sharing this information with?’ If you’re not sure about the identity of a third party on the website then you have to ask yourself if you would do that in an offline context, and the answer is that you probably wouldn’t.”
Studies also show that the use of sites such as Facebook have a negative affect on how college students do in school. It has been shown that those students who spend more time on Facebook and MySpace spend less time studying and therefore have a lower grade point average. Although Facebook does not directly hinder a student’s academic performance, there is definitely a relationship there.
Social networking sites have many beneficial aspects. However, you must be careful when sharing personal information over the internet because it is a public domain. Whether its pictures or a twitter comment, it is important to be aware of who is able to view your content and the ramifications it may have.
“Just be careful out there,” Communications Director Mark Schoenecker said. “Be mindful of what you’re doing. You’re putting your picture out to the world.”