“Opinion: Facebook is Using You” by Lori Andrews (The New York Times, Sunday, February 5, 2012) should be required reading for everyone. Andrews, a law professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law and author of I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy, describes how Facebook, Google, MySpace, and other social media use the data we input at their sites.
“Facebook makes money by selling ad space to companies that want to reach us,” Andrews writes. However, that is not where your or my data stops. “Material mined online has been used against people battling for child custody or defending themselves in criminal cases. LexisNexis had a product called Accurint for Law Enforcement, which gives government agents information about what people do on social networks.”
During the undergraduate college classes I teach, I warn my students to not post inappropriate pictures or comments online since recruiters regularly search to find potential candidates on social media sites. My students don’t really believe me because they are certain a recruiter can’t access their profiles. There are ways, however, I caution individuals. One of my students had a great interview with a human resources screener and even though she had given him her resume, he wanted to know how to find her LinkedIn profile. Andrews found that “Employers sometimes decide whether to hire people based on their online profiles, with one study indicating that 70 percent of recruiters and human resource professionals in the United States have rejected candidates based on data found online.”
Each time I leave the Internet, I clean my PC of cookies—or as many as I can remove with the three programs I use. The law professor suggests that “We need a do-not-track law, similar to the do-not-call one” and I totally agree. It is my right to have my online privacy and not know who is searching my g-mail or showing me ads that I don’t want to see.
It is time that the government step in and get a closer look on how social media is using us.