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Friday, February 25, 2011

What Does Facebook Say About You?

  • More than 500 million active users
  • 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook

How powerful is Facebook? One must wonder about the ever-increasing impact of a post on the Facebook social network service and website. The service provides a free platform for the right of expression, yet every right entails responsibility. Facebook allows an individual to unleash information that has the potential to create a firestorm of reaction and activity. This activity may include some unintended results.

No doubt, people use Facebook to achieve ends once believed almost impossible to obtain. Shortly after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped from power, activist Wael Ghonim spoke with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and credited Facebook with the success of the Egyptian people's uprising. Ghonim, a marketing manager for Google, played a key role in organizing the January 25 protest by reaching out to Egyptian youths on Facebook.

Shortly after that first protest, Ghonim was arrested in Cairo and imprisoned for twelve days. Since his release, Ghonim has become a symbol for the Egyptian movement, although he has rejected this notion. "I'm not a hero. I was writing on a keyboard on the Internet and I wasn't exposing my life to danger," he said in an interview immediately after his release. "The heroes are the one who are in the street." (Catharine Smith, "Egypt's Facebook Revolution: Wael Ghonim Thanks the Social Network," The Huffington Post, February 11 2011)

About Facebook and Posts

Nicole Ferraro reminds people that no matter what privacy settings they use, there is nothing at all private about posting something on the Web. Posting something on Facebook gives the entire universe the opportunity to see and interpret the message. This is definitely something a Facebook member should keep in mind. (Nicole Ferraro, "10 Ways Facebook Is Destroying Your Life,", February 22 2011)   

According to Ferraro, "This has always been true, but it's only getting worse as Facebook 'matures' and adds new horrifying features. When Mark Zuckerberg decides it's time for YOU to start wanting more people to know more about you, guess what he does? He changes your privacy settings."

Profile details represent an example of Facebook sharing. Facebook decided that all of its users' "Likes" and "Interests"  had to be public information and linked to a community page. Ferraro continues, "The truly frightening part is that sometimes we're not even the ones outing ourselves to the greater Web. Take Facebook Places: If you don't know enough to change the settings Facebook has so kindly designated for you, all of your Friends can check you into places, broadcasting your location without your permission or knowledge." (Nicole Ferraro, "10 Ways Facebook Is Destroying Your Life,", February 22 2011)  

The profile is something else users must consider. Many don’t set their privacy settings to limit access to their Facebook profiles. Facebook profiles are often filled with personal, professional, and even private information. Employers, colleagues, the press -- everybody can potentially have access to the information.

At present, Facebook makes no distinctions that divide a life into personal, professional, and private categories. Even if it did, who would distinguish between such divisions when they are snooping to find clues to the character of an individual? People do judge others on their personal lives.

"My rule of thumb is this: Anything I wouldn't be comfortable appearing on the front cover of The New York Times... found in a Google search, and/or proud [for] my parents to read/see simply does *not* get shared. Period," writes social media expert Mari Smith.

Job screening through consumer sites is already happening and is only bound to become more of a mainstream practice. A CareerBuilder survey in 2009 showed 45 percent of 2,600 employers surveyed acknowledged that they used Facebook and Twitter to screen job candidates. And according to the Corporate Executive Board Co., a business consulting firm that issued a survey in December, 80 percent of respondents said they plan to increase their of sites like Facebook when seeking job-candidates and reducing their dependence on online job boards. (Nicole Ferraro, "10 Ways Facebook Is Destroying Your Life,", February 22 2011) 

So although Facebook can be a fantastic networking tool, poor posts can represent negative aspects of an individual's life. Adding colleagues, particularly former co-workers or acquaintances to a friend list and sending a quick note to them from time to time on Facebook can be an excellent way to stay in touch with people.

The writers of one career choice guide suggest: "A good guideline to keep in mind is to ask yourself whether you’d be embarrassed if a supervisor, client or customer viewed anything you intend to post on your Facebook profile. If the answer is yes, don’t post it." ("How Facebook Can Impact Your Career,", January 12 2009)

Examples of Dumb Photo Posts

Thanks to Dan Tynan of PC World ("Say Cheese: 12 Photos That Should Never Have Been Posted Online," September 15 2008) for the following information about six posted photographs. I have left out details such as names, etc. Also, I have not included the final verdicts of those responsible for applying any stated penalties. Finally, I have not included the photos in the post. I'll leave the details up to the readers.

* One intern asked his boss at Anglo Irish Bank if he could take time off for a "family emergency in New York," then went to a Halloween party dressed like a refugee from Peter Pan and decided to put the fairie photo on his Facebook profile.

* A former mayor of Arlington, Oregon, got into trouble with her constituents after a family member posted photos to her MySpace profile showing the ex-mayor displaying her assets in lingerie. The photos were clearly taken in the town firehouse, where she worked as an executive secretary.

* A Boston fireman showed off his muscles to take part in a body-building competition, but he made the mistake of competing two weeks after he'd filed for permanent disability status due to back injuries. Apparently his injuries enabled him to lift barbells but prevented him from inspecting buildings for code violations.

* Two British tennis phenoms lost their sponsorship of  UK's Lawn Tennis Association after the LTA discovered photos of them on Bebo showing them drunk, getting intimate with condom dispensers in public restrooms, and otherwise displaying "a lack of discipline."

* A then-27-year-old student teacher posted a self portrait to her MySpace page under the caption "drunk pirate." The photo featured her sipping liquid from a plastic cup. Even though those viewing the photo could not tell exactly what the cup contained, her Pennsylvania-based university decided the picture was "unprofessional" enough to rescind her degree. 

* A Bryant University student was charged with drunk driving after causing a three-car crash that left one Providence woman in critical condition. Two weeks later he showed up for a Halloween party dressed as "Jail Bird," photos of which made it onto Facebook.

Six Things You Should Never Reveal on Facebook

The following information should not be posted on Facebook according to Kathy Kristof of CBS Money Watch (June 23 2010):

1. Your Birth Date and Place -- A study done by Carnegie Mellon showed that a date and place of birth could be used to predict most — and sometimes all — of the numbers in your Social Security number

2. Vacation Plans -- You might as well say “Rob me, please” than posting something along the lines of: “Count-down to Maui! Two days and Ritz Carlton, here we come!

3. Home Address -- A study recently released by the Ponemon Institute found that users of social media sites were at greater risk of physical and identity theft because of the information they were sharing. Some 40% listed their home address on the sites.

4. Confessionals -- You may hate your job; lie on your taxes; or be a recreational user of illicit drugs, but this is no place to confess.One study done last year estimated that 8% of companies fired someone for "misuse" of social media.

5. Password Clues -- If you’ve got online accounts, you’ve probably answered a dozen different security questions, telling your bank or brokerage firm your Mom’s maiden name; the church you were married in; or the name of your favorite song. Got that same stuff on the information page of your Facebook profile? You’re giving crooks an easy way to guess your passwords.

6. Risky Behaviors -- Insurers are increasingly turning to the web to figure out whether their applicants and customers are putting their lives or property at risk, according to
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