Imagine the scientists working to develop the atomic bomb armed with blogs. "I am so tired 'cause I worked with uranium all day long," someone would have written. "We were standing with the nuclear reactor, LOL, and it like totally worked. I will post pics ASAP but like don't tell anyone b/c of security."
Of course, someone would have leaked the blog entry, and within hours, Hitler would have received a text message about the entire project. Soon, pictures would have been posted on Fermi's facebook.com account. The project, most likely, would have been canned.
Investigative reporters are just waiting for the day when students currently in college are running for political office and are holding corporate positions. Why? Our jobs will be so much easier. Want a Supreme Court nominee's stance on abortion? Check his old Facebook groups. Need to know where a certain future president was during his National Guard duty? It'd probably be on his blog.
I am really worried about the amount of information we are putting online without considering the repercussions. Every blog entry you make and every social networking site you belong to -- whether it be MySpace, the Facebook or Friendster -- can easily be stored on someone's hard drive, waiting for the day when some nefarious columnist wants to write a scathing editorial about why you shouldn't be nominated for the Supreme Court.
The Facebook, one of the most popular social networking systems for college students, has "recently expanded to all schools in the nation," and there are "now more than 8.5 million unique users" who use the service, according to spokesman Chris Hughes. He says that the site "gets almost 200 million page views in any given 24-hour time period," which means it ranks "10th in terms of overall traffic on the entire Web."
If I personally created a database of 8.5 million college students tracking their birth dates, political affiliations, sexual orientations, interests, daily schedules, hometowns and photographs, privacy advocates would be enraged. If I told these privacy advocates that most of these 8.5 million college students continually updated their information, making it easy for me to track exactly what they were doing, they'd probably cry.
Of course, this information is not only advantageous to would-be journalists. In June, the Department of Defense began working with a marketing firm to create a similar database to help the military identify potential recruits. A director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center called the system "an audacious plan to target-market kids, as young as 16, for military solicitation."
But why waste the money on a database, Rumsfeld? Just check the Facebook. We'll tell you everything you want to know. If the Defense Department were to reinstate the draft, it would have 8.5 million records of would-be soldiers at its fingertips -- with birth dates, skill sets and contact information.
There are some who refuse to join up and put their personal information online. Engineering and Wharton junior Joey Schorr is one of the few at Penn who have never written a blog or signed up for a Facebook account. "I don't put anything up at all," he said. "If people truly want to know more about me, I am more than happy to tell them in person."
Schorr is smart, according to Lauren Steinfeld, who is the chief privacy officer at Penn. "Students and everyone should be quite aware of the electronic self-portraits they may be painting over the years that could have damaging professional and other consequences," she said.
And it's true. If you want to be employed one day, belonging to Facebook groups with sexually suggestive or politically damaging titles may not be the best long-term strategic move. Someone could easily take a screen-shot of your page, just waiting for the day when you're finally charging your way up the corporate ladder.
I deleted my blog and got off the Facebook recently. But many are still on, including your professors, corporate recruiters and College junior Daniel Glass, who admits that he "can never again say that nobody's ever seen a picture of me dressed as an angel in a wedding gown, with wings and a halo, standing at a urinal."
Glass worries that he will "meet a scheming, stalking succubus" who will use his Facebook profile to "lure [him] into the dark recesses of her conniving loins and force [him] to sire an unholy imp-child." My concerns aren't so dire.
I'm just worried that your social-networking profile is a lot more social than you think. And after all the hard work you do, you wouldn't want your blog or your Facebook profile -- of all things -- to start a terrible chain reaction.
Melody Joy Kramer is a senior English major from Cherry Hill, N.J. Perpendicular Harmony appears on Wednesdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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