Facebook: A little privacy, please?

by Alex Thang Nguyen – Horizon Guest Writer

Alex Nguyen shares some cautionary Facebook tales


With over 900 million users and a current market value of at least $100 billion, Facebook is No.1 social network, used by 1 in every 7 people on Earth. Users viewed approximately 1 trillion pages on Facebook during the month of June, 2011.  In the end of 2011, 2.7 billion “likes” and comments were generated every day. On whatever scale you judge Facebook, as a business, as a religion, or as a nation, its reach is beyond our imagination.

Despite its success, Facebook has been under suspicion due to the intrusive nature of Facebook’s handling of private, confidential information. It is possible that if you’re under a certain age, you have to cope with your parents finding out about Facebook and whether or not to accept the “friend request” from your mom or dad.  Now your parents have your profile and are updated almost every minute. Now you have to be careful when talking about drinking, sex and politics, especially if you are in college. As I was born in a conventional family, one photo of me holding a suspicious red cup with my friends from my life in boarding school will turn into a long conversation with my dad over the weekend.

But the issue goes far beyond a parent’s prying eyes. CBSnews.com reported in 2011 that these issues may also impact one’s careers. After a European summer vacation, 24-year-old Ashley Payne, a public high school English teacher in Georgia, was fired for a Facebook photo of her on vacation holding a glass of wine and a mug of beer.  What Ashley Payne and some of us who use Facebook might not notice is this: Your privacy ended the day you created a Facebook account and started adding friends.

Another article written this year by Somini Sengupta for The New York Times, tells the story of Max Schrems, 24, an Australian law student who sued Facebook for its complete record of his personal data.  Schrems was recently extremely amazed to receive 1,222 pages of personal information. Some of the old Wall postings and photos made sense, but some of its material he had never even entered into Facebook. His action motivated more than 40,000 requests for Facebook data in Europe.

How can that private information affect your life? News by Tom Ahearn in March 26 on www.esrcheck.com points out that 70 percent of human resource professionals have denied an applicant a job offer based on their online information.  So please feel free to post your party photos. Very soon, with the help of the new technology of facial recognition, your name will automatically be tagged on the photo.  You might be cool on Facebook now, but to future employers?

Have fun, but also watch out, people. Don’t let one seemingly insignificant action damage your future. Meanwhile, you might want to start learning how to use Facebook’s “privacy settings.” They may make you annoyed and impatient every time you think about them, but this is something worth spending time on.

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