Facebook is a social networking website that has defined personal mass communication in recent years. It’s free to set up and use an account. You create a profile that describes you, your interests, your relationship status, and whatever personal information you wish to share with either the general public or selected friends and family who also have accounts on the site. You can publish photos of family, friends, pets, travels, and whatever else you like. It gives you the freedom to express yourself, let people know what’s on your mind, start or spread gossip or “news,” notify acquaintances of how great your life is–or isn’t, what party you went to last weekend, and so on. The site itself states that it “helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” And people do–maybe too much.
You might think that the things you put on your profile are confidential to only the friends you’ve accepted by the push of a button. Doesn’t the fourth amendment give you the right against unreasonable search and seizure? It states that all citizens have the right “to be secure in a person’s house, papers and effects and this right shall not be violated and no warrant shall only be issued but upon probable cause.” But hold on. This does not keep police from pursuing the information on your Facebook profile–or your blog, for that matter. Police are not restricted from joining such sites and befriending suspects and gathering vital information for investigations. You could be in trouble–real trouble, not just embarrassment–especially if you have not taken the time to fine-tune your privacy settings or have been careless in what information you (or your friends!) provide.
And you aren’t protected by deleting content either. You think you’re safe because you deleted those exposed or telling photos of you and your friends, but Facebook keeps what’s called a “neoprint” of up to 90 days of all photos uploaded by you or your friends and the tagging and captioning done on them. Facebook also has all of your contact information (like location, phone numbers, and email addresses) and the IP addresses of computers you’ve used to access your account, whether or not you’ve made this information private. All of this information can be made available to the police at their request.
Facebook itself knows too much about you. The engineers of this web tool have made this site intelligent enough to use your information cleverly. For instance, they consider your relationship status–and changes in said status–when serving up advertisements for wedding rings or dating sites. This could be seen as threatening your privacy.
Ever joined a group? A list of any and all members of a group–such as the “I love cheese” group–could at any time be handed over to the police, who can request and receive any information about those members contained in their profiles. Associations are recorded. Ever heard the phrase “guilt by association”? The implications are scary.
In the news recently, teens were arrested for underage drinking because they posted pictures of themselves at a party, drinks in hand. A 23-year-old man was charged with speeding and reckless endangerment after police came across a video posted on Facebook of him driving at 160 miles per hour on a highway. And there are other precautions you should consider, even if you’re not bending or breaking the laws. In New York, a ring of robbers was recently busted. They had been “hitting” houses whose owners had posted Facebook messages indicating their vacation plans, thus tipping off the robbers that no one would be home when they came to poke around.
Think before you post your life on the internet because it lives on in the cyber world and digital archives and may come back to bite you!