Keep a low profile

 
 

While it’s fun to share photos from drunken nights out with friends on your Bebo and Facebook page, Sarah Costigan questions who you’re actually showing them to.

Social networking sites have become increasingly more popular in recent years. The websites have become almost a popularity device, with more and more students uploading pictures of themselves and their friends, as well as posting public comments which are clearly visible for anyone to read.

However, profile pages of Bebo, Facebook and MySpace are easily found through internet search engines and are examined by potential employers, parents or acquaintances.

This fact is especially significant to final year students who intend perusing employment next year after graduating. In this current economic state, competition on the jobs market is fierce, and the last thing would-be employees need is a silly picture from their Bebo page to tarnish their chances of starting in a job. So one must question if students today are leaving themselves vulnerable and exposed or do they make a conscious enough effort to control their own privacy?

The privacy policy on the Bebo website states that your profile information will only be shared with people you have specifically agreed to share such information with and to groups, such as universities, that you belong to. Facebook also presents a similar policy.

Consequently, as a member of the UCD Bebo or Facebook group you could easily be sharing your information with the entire student body. There is no mechanism of confirming that members of this group are actually UCD students. So while it’s easy to believe you are protected once you set your profile on private mode, ultimately there is nothing stopping strangers accessing your homepage.

“If employers want to look, I make a conscious effort to ensure that there is nothing up there that I wouldn’t want known about myself”

Is online privacy an issue that UCD students are conscious of? When first year engineering student, Jack O’Connor was questioned about this, his response was quite unique, but with relative connotations for all students.

“I was recently pictured in multiple newspapers during the Big Brother auditions, so I think I’ve had enough negative exposure!” he explains. However, in relation to Bebo he admits that he is fortunate saying, “There have been no photos [of me online] that I’ve had a problem with.”

First year Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology student, Carole Quigley states, “I purposely have no drunken pictures of myself online. I’ve never been in a picture with a drink in my hand.”

“Employers have been known to check up [online] on potential employees.” While Quigley doesn’t like the idea of them doing so, she accepts that, “if employers want to look, I make a conscious effort to ensure that there is nothing up there that I wouldn’t want known about myself.”

Regarding prospective employers viewing his Bebo profile, O’Connor said “I’m only in college, it’s the time and the place to do things that you can’t do for the rest of your life, so I think it would be very unfair to be judged on my actions in college for the rest of my life.”

While O’Connor suggests that he should be able to enjoy privacy online, he also states that “people don’t usually put up pictures that are that bad.” So in that respect the soundness of friends’ actions seems to act as a type of privacy protection that students must rely on.

In light of the availability of our private life online, the question of how to prevent intrusions must be examined. Making your profile private no longer seems to be enough. Although it is possible to ask the site monitor to remove your image from social websites, this may not fully remove them from the online annals.

Privacy is being invaded due to new internet sites and technological advances; Pipl.com for example, is a query-engine that helps you find deep web pages that cannot be found on regular search engines. On this site there is even an option to search people’s mobile phone numbers.

With websites like this, it is fair to say that the internet has shifted from a social outlet to an intrusion of our privacy. In the long run, are Bebo and Facebook sites more of a threat then a form of entertainment?

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