Social Networking

Ten years means a lot in today's rapidly developing world. Privacy policies have to constantly be updated to reflect the changing technologies. Since the last report on Stanford privacy issues in 2002, new technologies like social networks and torrent downloading have drastically changed the online landscape. Stanford should consider these issues if it plans to update its privacy policies.

Social Networks were popularized in the last decade by websites like Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter. They allow individuals to post their personal information online, sharing photos, status updates, and interests with friends and family. Unfortunately, putting this information online comes at the cost of individual privacy. While Facebook offers its users privacy control settings, limiting information seen by others to only their friends, not everybody takes advantage of this. Posting illegal activities such as underage drinking can have a negative impact on students because schools, college admissions officers, and potential employers have access to this information. Even students who take advantage of privacy control can be seen in a negative light with scandalous profile pictures. Another issue is the scope of social networks. Users can have thousands of friends even though their inner friend circle is much smaller. The new social network "Path" only allows its users to have 50 friends because "posting on Path is not an act of broadcasting or self-promotion, but sharing a moment with someone who really knows you." Meanwhile on Facebook, a majority of someone's thousands of friends might have a view of the person based mostly on what they see on their Facebook profile.

What should Stanford do?

Stanford needs to be careful not to interfere too closely with student life and this includes social networking sites. Rather than try to limit the damage of social networks by limiting their access, Stanford should just avoid social networks to gather information about students. This includes admissions, information given to employers, and even student groups.
Instead it is the student's responsibility to be careful about what they post on social networking sites. Students need to be aware of the issue and be more proactive about protecting their privacy on the Internet.

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