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Facebook: know what you?re sharing

Staff Editorial | Friday, March 31, 2006

They?re watching.

And don?t say you didn?t see it coming.

From your underage roommate?s tagged photos of his or her visit to a local bar to a friend?s membership in a questionable group, the material publicly documented on the Facebook Web site has finally caught the attention of University administrators who have created accounts and viewed student profiles.

From its seemingly innocent beginnings of linking friends at colleges and universities across the nation, the Facebook has most recently morphed into a ?watchdog? tool that allows administrators and law enforcement officials a tempting glimpse into what many students falsely consider their private worlds.

While University officials have said they do not peruse student profiles in a quest to uncover duLac violations, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Kirk said there is no policy ?that would prohibit or require? the utilization of Facebook in the disciplinary process ? an ambiguous statement that clouds any future speculation.

At Saint Mary?s, monitoring of the site may have additional implications for students. Director of Residence Life Michelle Russell said the College is preparing ?to explore ways to utilize Facebook to communicate with students and to determine if these sites should be considered when hiring student leadership positions.?

At neither school has the administration doled out punitive measures based solely on infractions spotted on Facebook ? marking a line that shouldn?t be crossed. The outside scrutiny is far from illegal, since the only requirement for Facebook membership is an ?.edu? e-mail address. This allows administrators, future employers, police and virtually anyone who has had an ?.edu? e-mail address at some point in his or her life to access the site.

It?s important to remember that as a public domain, Facebook requires users to be responsible for what they post ? or are associated with ? on the site. Given the examples of Facebook crackdowns at other universities paired with some Notre Dame and Saint Mary?s faculty and administrators? admitted Facebook usage habits, it is ignorant to think that what you post on the site is for your friends? eyes only.

Unless you make it that way, that is.

Bottom line: Be careful.

You can?t keep administrators from trying to peek, but there are easy ways to protect yourself from their scrutiny. Re-set your privacy settings to only allow friends to see your profile. Untag your photos.

And remember that you aren?t the only face looking at your Facebook profile.