Friday, July 30, 2010

Facebook lost my data - so what?

This is creepy.
I've been reading the "Facebook data got stolen" story and I thought back to discussions with students over Facebook privacy settings. Chime in with any you've told students along the way.
  1. Change your name and information. Your friends know you are "Vlad the Imposter", living in Pennsylvania and no one else needs to know. If they know you, then you can be found. Otherwise, who the hell cares? Make up stuff for the fields. My personal religion, apparently, is Viking and I am a Scot. If all your information is an inside joke, then your future is a little more secure. None of the "About Me" fields needs to be filled out. Anyone who knows you already knows it. Anyone who doesn't doesn't need to.
  2. Set every privacy rating to "friends only" ... not "friends of friends." That way, you control who sees it by controlling who your friends are, instead of handing that power to friends who "friend" everyone in sight.
  3. Starting "un-friending" people, beginning with any teachers in this building. Teachers can have a class page or something but there is no valid reason for teachers and students to be "friends." A whole bunch of kids at my school were "friends" with the assistant principal -- WTF? That ended quickly when that same AP busted some "friends" for photos which the kids say weren't what she thought they were. Week-long suspensions, lost trust, bad feelings, anger at the school were the start.
  4. I am a mandatory reporter. I explain that at the beginning of school. Information seen on Facebook is included.
  5. Facebook is a data business, fueled by your data. Why are you giving away everything for no return? Do you realize how easy it is for stupid people in power to ruin your life, or at the least make it miserable for a while?
  6. Make a second account for the public and keep it clean, professional and basically friendless. That's the one that people at work can see. The other one? No comment.
  7. Make a third account, just for the hell of it. Invent a person and give him one, too. Don't attack or slander anyone with it, though.
Some folks might ask why Facebook is set up to be so open about everyone's information and I think it's a generational thing. Mark Zuckerberg is a college kid still. He thinks that everyone should be able to see everything about everyone -- it's the norm for college and no one ever gets hurt. If I were still in college, I'd probably agree.

But I'm not in college and I have to play by different rules. Grownup rules. I live in a world where everything you say and post "can and will be held against you" and will probably be misinterpreted to my detriment.

Everything my friends say (even if it nothing to do with me) will be used against me as well. I don't want my friends (outside of school) to be writing things on my wall that my students can read. My friends don't have the same understanding of 'Things That Will Get You Fired' (h/t Richie!) and I don't expect them to vet their posts accordingly. Why should students be able to read that my friends are planning a whiskey-soaked bash prior to going off to war?

Remember the teacher who got fired for attending a bachlorette party at which someone she had no control over did something stupid? Remember the college professor who was reprimanded for appearing in a post-championship celebratory photo - holding a beer? Everyone was. It was a celebration. Only the female professor got the reprimand. She's fighting, of course, but who wants that hassle?

In the other direction, I don't want my students (or their parents) to know things about some of my friends either -- too many "guilt by association" things happen when parents get information.

"None of your business" should be the Facebook motto but it isn't.

Kids deserve the same privacy because they are still feeling out their world. Kids brag and bullshit and should be able to continue to do so online without repercussion.

Educcrats tend to forget the grain of salt.


  1. I do have a fb account, but I do not allow anyone under that age of 23 to be my friends, no matter how much I liked them. The kids understand this, and I have a lot of the same conversations with them about the internet and privacy as well. They think they are so technologically literate, but they are naive about the effects on their privacy. They not just give away their private information-- they fling it in the collective face of the universe.

  2. Agreed, mostly . . . no current students, EVER. Once you've graduated, you can try me, but I'm still selective. And friends only is absolutely vital, as is the 'delete' command.