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Are we watching you? Miscellaneous

I’m a regular reader of Al’s Morning Meeting on Poynter.org. I confess, I regularly skim the headlines to see if something pops out at me rather than read the entire thing. Something popped out this morning, though. (It’s the item at the end.)

Is This What You Want Your College (Or Future Employer) to Know About You?

The Reading (Pa.) Eagle has a story about how school administrators are scouring Facebook.com to see what students are up to. They often find pictures from drunken frat parties or worse. The paper warns that those kinds of pictures can haunt students long after school.

Similar things are happening at colleges around the country. The University of Notre Dame’s Observer has a similar story. And so did the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times , the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Tarentum, Pa. Valley News Dispatch. The University of Nevada’s newspaper, The Nevada Sagebrush, ran an editorial on Facebook this week.

I have another confession. I’m guilty of facebooking RIT students. (ooh, “facebooking” can be our new Tiger Beat word for the week. Last week’s was Mike’s “wrogging.”)

Why was I prowling around, searching for details of our students lives? I was actually looking for contact information for our Student Government president and vice president so we could invite them to President Clinton’s visit to RIT last December. Luckily for them, Cory Hoffman had his cell phone number in his profile and we were able to hook them up. SG President James Macchiano was harder to track down, although one of our news specialists did have a nice chat with his mom.

I’ve been on the phone with someone in Residence Life while checking out some RIT facebook profiles and found a number of parties we could have crashed that weekend. You know, the ones that plan to serve alcohol and are inviting practically everyone in cyberspace (including minors).

I’m also told that RIT Campus Safety monitors the site, looking to anticipate any future colonypalooza-like gatherings.

Is this a betrayal of our students? A violation of trust of some kind? While facebook is geared towards people of a younger generation that want to network, find friends and have fun — and folks at facebook say that the site isn’t intended to be used for monitoring students — it is publically available information. Anyone with an educational e-mail address can sign up for a free account, post pictures, make a profile and search for other people.

If you don’t want people knowing about it, don’t put it out there (the same goes for me on my personal blog which I’ve gotten in hot water over a couple of times), whether it’s your political leanings, cell phone number or that party your throwing this weekend — or the photos from it!

Which reminds me, I’ve got to change my facebook photo…

  1. Mike Saffran
    Mar 30

    Here's the inspiration for the mainstream media interest in the story of Facebook as a monitoring tool (subscription required, unfortunately):

    Think before you share: Students' online socializing can have unintended consequences
    (The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 20, 2006)

    As those of us working in higher-ed public relations know, reporters find many story ideas from The Chronicle.

    Here are a couple related articles, both from the Web site insidehighered.com (no subscription required):

    Facebook Face Off (Feb. 14, 2006)

    Cleaning Up Their Online Acts (Oct. 3, 2005)

  2. Brandon Borgna
    Mar 31

    Silandara, I've heard a rumor that several RIT RA's were removed from their positions as a result of party photographs placed on Facebook.
    I've also heard (first hand) that various Greek orgnizations keep track of their pledge's activities (mainly alcohol consumption) through Facebook.
    I guess 'Big Brother' is prevalent on our campus too.

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