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Posts Tagged ‘Backstage’

From MSN (though it has been covered numerous other places as well), here is another example of a teenager’s backstage statements causing frontstage problems. As the article states:

The lawsuit raises the complicated — and quite unsettled — legal quandary that balances students’ constitutional rights with schools’ needs to maintain order and a positive educational environment. For example, can schools punish students who publicly criticize school officials on their own time using social networks?

Federal district courts have handed down contradictory decisions on that issue. Facing a chance to settle the matter, the U.S. Supreme Court in January declined to hear three cases on the issue.

But private social media criticism, intended only for a limited audience behind a password or a privacy wall, raises a different legal issue, said Teresa Nelson, a lawyer for the ACLU in Minnesota.

“The notion that it was a search of her private Facebook content … the Fourth Amendment applies,” she said.  “The government has to have a really good reason to do that kind of search,” and would need a court order in most cases, she said.

Situations like this demonstrate that even the ability to choose who is allowed to see the content you post on Facebook is not always enough. With this in mind, I offer the following advice to classmates, coworkers, and anybody else who wants to complain about their public lives in private:

Facebook is not for venting! Even if you choose who can see your posts you may find yourself needing to explain them to your friends, parents, school officials, bosses, or college professors. If you want to vent, do it in a Google Document that is accessible only to you and a few close confidants. Facebook is the equivalent of writing a comment in somebody else’s yearbook. Google Documents are the equivalent of passing a note to a few of your friends. Yes, there is still a chance that it might fall into the wrong hands, but that chance is vastly diminished.

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The video above, in which a parent reads a letter his daughter had posted on Facebook, criticizes her, and then shoots her laptop nine times, reinforces my previous statement that while public information on the internet is not private, private information is not necessarily private, either. The video has gone viral, receiving over 18 million views in the past five days, with over 92% of the people who submitted an opinion about it “liking” it. Among my Facebook friends, many of whom are parents themselves, it has received an overwhelmingly positive response, with comments that indicate they would like their own children to receive this sort of treatment.

Apparently, the birth of a child is enough to make us forget what it is like to be a teenager.

The friend who posted the video on Facebook, for example, had some rocky times with his own parents and even had the nerve to occasionally complain to his friends about them. The main difference between him and Hannah, the unseen daughter in the video, is that he shared his complaints in person while she displayed them for her friends on Facebook. Hannah, like many who grow up with these things, was aware of Facebook’s privacy settings and had hidden the post from her parents. Unfortunately for her, she probably also told Facebook to keep her signed in so that her father was able to view her full page when updating her computer.

Although I haven’t seen any responses from Hannah (her computer has been destroyed, after all), I fear the ramifications of losing the comfort of a backstage due to technology. How would my friend’s teenage years have been different if he couldn’t complain about his parents to me without them finding out? How would his life be different now if he could never come home and complain about his boss or go out with his friends and complain about his wife or children? Venting about minor problems likely prevents major explosions, but those who like this father’s tactics don’t seem to understand that that’s what Hannah was doing. I’ve read articles speculating that in the future drunken pictures won’t be a reason not to hire somebody (or elect them president) because we will be desensitized to people’s backstage activities. We’re clearly not there yet.

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There have been a number of times that I’ve discussed the ways in which public information on the internet is not private.  If you make photos or information about yourself publicly available, you have to recognize that others might take it into consideration when forming an opinion of you.  Now, however, the city of Bozeman, MT wants to know what private information you have, too.  As noted by Ars Technica, the city’s background check waiver form includes the following request:

“Please list any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.” the form reads. But Bozeman isn’t simply interested in finding out where to look for potentially embarrassing personal details; the city wants full disclosure, since the form demands username and password information for each. City employees will apparently be able to dig through any information applicants have put online, regardless of whether it’s accessible to the public.

Applicants need not worry about their potentially sensitive private information, though, because the city won’t look at “protected” things:

A local news station spoke to Bozeman’s attorney and asked about the potential for problems of this sort. The city’s answer? Trust us! “One thing that’s important for folks to understand about what we look for is none of the things that the federal constitution lists as protected things, we don’t use those,” said attorney Greg Sullivan.

An examination of private information like this is ridiculous and the recent media attention will hopefully end Bozeman’s use of this practice.  If not, your next employer may want to come to your house and take a look through your belongings before deciding whether or not you should be hired.  Who doesn’t love Big Brother?

Update: Bozeman rescinded this policy on Friday, June 20, stating:

The extent of our request for a candidate’s password, user name, or other internet information appears to have exceeded that which is acceptable to our community.  We appreciate the concern many citizens have expressed regarding this practice and apologize for the negative impact this issue is having on the City of Bozeman.

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Once again, somebody is surprised that the information posted on a public MySpace site is not, in fact, private.  Unlike the previous example, however, this case involves a girl’s former principal forwarding her rant about her hometown to the editor of the local paper, who published it as a letter to the editor.  This case highlights the lack of control that we have over our ideas once we make them public, although it seems like a better approach may have been to sue on the grounds that the newspaper did not have the right to reprint the author’s work.

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