A school principal in New Jersey sent a note home to parents, asking them to ban their children from social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, noting “there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None!”
He was alarmed at the nature of places like Facebook, and the fact that predators can easily can make their way to children quite easily.
I pride myself on being socially aware and forward-thinking, yet….I can get behind his paranoia quite easily. Having learned recently the lengths to which Facebook will advance its earnings – by opening up its patrons’ profiles just a little bit more, so that vendors can use meta-data to brag about their products…well the fact is, Facebook isn’t safe anymore. Not for adults who value their privacy and certainly not for children who may or may not have mad linking skills.
A friend of mine recently got a computer for the first time in his life. He sent me a message from within a video site. In other words, he used the site’s mechanism for sending emails, instead of just copying the link from the browser bar and pasting it in as a link to a message to me directly.
I went immediately into paranoid overdrive. What he did, unknowingly, is give the owners of the website my email address. They provided a link on the site: “Want a friend to see this video? Put his email address here and a note will go out to invite him to look at it.” What could be more helpful than that?
Right. So now they have my email address and they can combine it with all the other email addresses they have on file, and now they can sell those addresses to other third-party vendors, some of whom are kosher and OK, and others of whom are scam artists.
I felt the need to educate him but frankly didn’t know where to begin. As an internet neophyte there is so very much to learn.
Like: when you forward funny emails directly to a group of people – AND WHEN YOU LEAVE THEIR ADDRESSES IN THE TO: FIELD INSTEAD OF USING THE BCC: FIELD – you have to know that the email is going to go viral. As friends in the inital group of recipients forward the funny email to their groups of friends….well, eventually thousands of people who you never knew and to whom you never intended the email to go to will suddenly find your email in their inboxes. And while most of them might be just as normal as you and me there’s going to be a percentage of folk who are just not trustworthy at all. And that percentage will suddenly have your email address, which they can use as they see fit.
People join up with Facebook, which warns you to use your real first and last name. That’ s their rule. And you know what gets me? EVERYONE DOES IT. We are such a trusting people.
Those same people also join Twitter and some decide to play it safe by using a pseudonym. Then they link their Twitter account to their Facebook and voilà! Their real name shows up in the stream. And some use Twitter to talk about, oh, well absolutely everything.
Like: “I bought a new laptop computer.”
Followed by: “I’m just heading out for a night on the town. Hope my little cat can stand to be alone.”
And they wonder why, when they get home, their new laptop is gone and how the thieves knew when to break in.
Back to the principal of that school: he worries that some gossip about a kid down the hall will make it out to the wide net. Before the internet, the gossip stayed within a small group of friends. No longer. Bullying and preying has been taken to new heights.
When I first read the article I thought he was being a bit of a boob. Having read the entire email though (found here: http://wcbstv.com/technology/facebook.social.networking.2.1662565.html ), and upon further reflection, I’ve changed my mind.
I think he’s right to be paranoid.
(P.S. I’m on Facebook and I don’t use my real name. I’ve got a really freaky name on there. Facebook’s rules can kiss my native-American ass.) :)