Monday, April 03, 2006

Facebook Gets Poked

Is it wrong for a University to allow pictures and writings on the popular Facebook website as investigative evidence in disciplinary cases? That is the question at hand in the two articles regarding Facebook policy at Princeton and the University of Dayton.

Both universities admit to charging students with misconduct based on investigations that surfaced incriminating photos (underage drinking and other illicit activities) from Facebook.My first reaction to the universities' methods was one of disapproval. Other than the process of registering one's .edu mail address as a means of creating a Facebook profile, the site has no affiliation with the university the student attends. So why should information supplied on an unaffiliated website be allowed in a university investigation? It seems very intrusive, underhanded, and wrong. Especially when considering that some students complain about D.P.S. officials posing as undergraduates in order to circumvent privacy settings that allow only students to see other students' profiles.

Still, the article mentions that neither university scours Facebook for illicit activities and writes citations. Rather, both use Facebook material as "secondary evidence" in an already ongoing investigation of a particular student or group.

It is my prediction that the surveillance imposed upon Facebook will quickly diminish its fad status faster than it would have normally been phased out. Students will not continue to support a website that only serves to incriminate them. While I do not really agree with the methods of Princeton and Dayton, the use of Facebook by students to advertise their drunkenness sends the wrong message to prospective college students about what university education and its social setting must entail. The culture of alcoholism is promoted and sustained by the display of unbridled underage drinking. Thus, maybe it's better for everyone that students who wish to flaunt their misbehavior choose a less public setting.

That is not to say that I have never had a drink in my underage life--or do not even do so regularly. It is to say, however, that Facebook promotes drinking irresponsibility so endemic to college campuses. Privacy settings on Facebook should solve both problems in that the public advertisement of questionable activities is lessened as well as administrator's access to it. The tactics of deception utilized by some schools is wrong and any evidence obtained by deceit should be ruled as unlawful to use in an investigative setting.