Oxford Uni Facebook Crackdown

One of the few promises I’ve made to myself and managed to keep is never sitting another exam ever again. Anyone who has gone through Finals at Oxford will be more than happy to tell you why. The whole process has its strange traditions which seem quite cute at the time, from dressing up in subfusc to wearing different coloured carnations depending on which exam your sitting.

The most enjoyable is of course finishing your final exam, walking out of the Exam Schools and being greeted by your mates who proceed to shower you with a mixture of flour, eggs and cheap champagne. Now the University has never liked this particular tradition and I can remember writing stories for the student paper on the dire warnings issued by the proctors (Oxford Uni’s very own police force) to any student caught having fun in public.

So I was slightly surprised to read on the BBC today that such an anarchic institution has been using Facebook to pursue students apparently flouting the rules. The Student Union has issued a warning that the authorities are actively searching students profiles for photographic evidence of people engaging in post-exam ‘trashings’. My first response is surely the proctors must have something better to do but this is yet another in a long line of warnings of the dangers of having a public Facebook profile.

I can think of few benefits for opting for this level of openness so can only presume that even the country’s brightest students are not thinking about the consequences of lax privacy settings. The greater danger is of course from identity theft and Sophos’ recent jumping on this issue has been impressive. I think there is a strong and growing case for Facebook to make its privacy options much more explicit when people sign-up to the service and to proactively warn its members of the security implications of an open and public profile. Taking this voluntary step would avoid the negative press and potential loss of confidence which would result from the site being forced to take these measures as a result of government pressure!

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