Given this week’s focus on personal data in the public domain, the Information Commissioners Office has been timely in releasing a report today on the potential dangers of the content which young people are leaving online.
David Smith, deputy commissioner for the ICO claims, “Many young people are posting content online without thinking about the electronic footprint they leave behind. The cost to a person’s future can be very high if something undesirable is found by the increasing number of education institutions and employers using the internet as a tool to vet potential students or employees.”
The hazards associated with open profiles on social networks are not new, but the message clearly isn’t getting through. The report found that half of those questioned had little or no restrictions on who could view their profiles. More tellingly 71% of 2,000 14 to 21-year-olds said they would not want colleges or employers to do a web search on them before they had removed some material!
The stat which the social networks will perhaps be most concerned with is that 95% of those surveyed had real concerns about personal details being passed to advertisers and other websites.
For anyone who’s watched Gordon Brown’s recent performances at PMQs its obvious that charisma is in short supply in British politics these days, so being invited to join the “I’m Backing Boris’ group on Facebook put a smile on my face. In the space of a week the group is up to 800 members and growing and yesterday afternoon somebody created the inevitable ” I’m Backing Boris” application which basically sticks this delightful poster on your profile. The introduction of applications has transformed the Facebook experience, I know they’ve not been universally welcomed – if anyone else tries to turn me into a Zombie I may well have to go on a crazed killing spree through the streets of West Hampstead!
It will be interesting to see how brands look to take advantage of the Facebook Platform and how the sites community reacts to the covert/overt commercialisation applications represent. I was sent a great link a few weeks ago to a keynote delivered by Mark Zuckerberg to over 800 developers talking about his vision for the Facebook Platform. There is a perhaps unsurprisingly a whiff of global domination in Zuckerberg’s presentation (albeit from a CEO wearing what looks like a hoodie), but his plans for creating new advertising platforms and a Facebook payments system is certainly going to be exciting. As for Boris, I think we’ll have to wait ’til Monday to see if he’s going to take on Ken!
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!