Editorial: Privacy settings

When you’re walking along the north side of the Quad and a smiling stranger invites you to sign up to save the turtles, if you even bother to sign your name, you don’t usually think to also offer up a list of your family members, the location of your hometown and a select variety of pictures spanning across the majority of your youth.

Yet, this perfect stranger can easily have access to all this and more, without a smile or even the pretense of permission.

Through the likes of Facebook and other social networking websites, we throw out information like we do garbage — with no idea of who is collecting it. Your mother? Your future employer? Obama? What is strange is not that we are unaware of this, but that we are aware and don’t seem to be able to unplug ourselves.

It is an odd paradox that as we become more detached from one another in the actual living world, we are infinitely – and much more intimately – connected through our computers, and not just with our friends.

Kashmir Hill, a Forbes privacy blogger, posted a chart exhibiting that 95 percent of employers say they use social media sites to seek out information on job applicants, and 69 percent have rejected candidates based on their online profile.

It’s not for the reasons you might guess, either. We all know pictures of binge drinking and Halloween costumes you wouldn’t want your grandmother to catch you in are obvious job deal breakers. But, 11 percent say they opted not to hire someone because they demonstrated poor communication skills, such as spelling, grammar and vocabulary. That means it’s not just about content — you need to be aware of the way you present yourself in all aspects.

Now you’re probably thinking about your privacy settings. Maybe only friends can see your profile, or your tagged pictures aren’t available for viewing. But privacy settings often get reset when a new version of Facebook comes out (so pretty much everyday) and it is rumored that many employers have ways of getting around them. Not only that, but when a photo is posted on Facebook, they technically own it. Even once it’s deleted, it stays on their database forever.

Networking sites all change so rapidly, we can hardly keep up with the updates. We accept them without protest, except for a few days of angry status updates, and continue to use them without a serious thought of the consequences.

Invention is the mother of necessity. We think we need Facebook to communicate, to keep in touch and to express ourselves. It’s not a bad thing, but we should keep in mind that people did all these things for thousands of years without computers, let alone networking sites.

The important thing to remember with these sites is that you should be the one in control. You are the customer; these sites need to be made to cater to you, not the other way around.

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