Friday, January 29, 2010

What Price Freedom?

Social media. If you’re here, you’re a part of it. Everyone’s doing it these days. Not too long ago, I received a Facebook friend request from someone’s grandmother – so, yes, I feel confident when I say that EVERYONE really is doing it now. Social media are great ways for people to connect and engage in open discussion. Social media have provided us with new and effective methods to self-publish, share knowledge, and do business. Social media has made it easier for people to find everything from obscure music, to long-lost high school friends, to dates. But this convenience comes with a price, and that price is our privacy.

What does your profile say about you? Could someone use that information against you in some way? Is there information about you on the internet that you would not want certain people to see? The reality is, the information you post on “private” social networking pages isn’t really private at all. Privacy rules on social networking sites are pretty murky and many popular social media sites are under investigation for potentially violating privacy laws.

Basically, if it’s on the internet, it’s fair game. According to recent research, two-thirds of human resource professionals run internet searches on potential applicants. One in four has rejected a candidate on the basis of their social networking profile. Do you think all of this snooping stops when you get the job? Think again. Do you really want your employer knowing EVERYTHING you do and say? I sure don’t. And neither did this woman who was fired from her job when her employer discovered she was updating her Facebook profile while out sick.

Think you have the freedom to say anything in your tweet? Ask Jon-Barrett Ingels how that worked out for him.

Think you have the right to express your opinions on a social networking site? Not exactly…

Big brother is watching, but most of us don’t seem too concerned. In “How to Lose Your Job onYour Own Time,” Randall Stross reports the findings of a study that states “that 60 percent of Internet users surveyed are not worried about how much information is available about them online.” Do these people have nothing to hide or have they simply come to terms with the lack of privacy that our technologically advanced world has created?

Cyber snooping isn’t limited to employers. Your online activity can potentially expose you to criminals as well. For those of us that would like to protect our privacy, Robert Siciliano offers some prudent tips.

Social media has changed the world and will continue to do so in the future. But as technology outpaces privacy laws, users need to be cautious about what they do and say online – or anywhere for that matter, since anybody’s cell phone camera can record your drunken rendition of an Elton John classic and put it on YouTube.

Tiny Dancer (The Drunk Version) - The best bloopers are here

The rule of thumb is “if you wouldn’t want your mother to see it, don’t do it,” because if you do, your mother, my friend’s grandma on Facebook, and everybody else who is watching you WILL find out.


  1. Yes, this is what I would tell my 15 yo if I were a nice person. He "unfriended" me from Facebook because he thinks his friends might write something inappropriate on his wall -- which they sometimes do. Little does he know that his privacy settings are set so that I can still SEE his wall. I can now announce that I know something because I "heard" it from someone... Might be considered snooping by some, but I think if you put something out there on the Internet then you have no right to privacy, especially from your mother if you are a teenager. Of course, the irony is that I am posting this *secret* on a blog with an assumption of privacy as the odds of this post being brought to his attention are quite low. But with the six degrees, anything is possible -- so please don't rat me out.

    On the corporate side, I have mixed thoughts. As an employer, I think if someone were out sick and I found them on FB, I would be mad. But if you were sick and in bed, what else would you do if you were not sleeping? I think businesses should draw a line, but I'm betting that if the whole truth were told, the folks listed in this post who were fired were already on the edge and their social media troubles pushed their bosses on over. Firings are rarely based on one single incident, or tweet as the case may be.

  2. I think that true freedom comes with anonymity. With no name, face, or profile attached to a comment, there seems to be no consequence. But we've past that point in social media. Now, standard protocol on social media sites let us attach our identity to profile pictures, "about me" pages, status updates, and blog roll subscriptions, just to name a few. If you Google my name, the resulting pages are plastered with articles about a band I played in five years ago. You can see my blog, where I've worked, what schools I've attended, and states I've lived in. Even though I have privacy settings on my accounts, public domain is public domain.

    And what about the Facebook page I've had since 2005? Now, as a mid-twentysomething, pictures and activities from when I was 19 are no longer relevant, but who's to say a potential employer won't come across something from my cyber past and pass up my application? I think social media has breeched the personal line and now necessitates a professional setting, always.

    15-year-olds and grandmas beware.

  3. Good for you Rebecca, and at least one of your children friended you in the first place. I am in the "Dad is so lame" category, and my kids don't want to be my friends. They all still want my money, you understand, but not my Facebook friendship. The burden of lameness is heavy.

    As for Big Brother (and Big Sister) watching us, that's no surprise. They always have, and they always will. Google was awarded the Big Brother Award for 2003 ( Law enforcement agencies including the FBI regular monitor internet traffic ( If I were to type certain keywords into this blog response, serious-looking people wearing RayBans and dark suits would be knocking on my door by sundown.

    Wherever there is data, there will be those who will sift through it. In many cases, this is not a bad thing, such as when the police use the internet to track down pedophiles. As a general rule, though, none of us should put anything on the internet that we wouldn't want to share with 350,000,000 of our closest friends.