Social Networking – Why We Need to Educate Youth

This is a short post, but gives three definitive examples of why we need to develop and instill norms in youth concerning how to use digital resources.

Let’s help this woman find her camera!

Here’s the story (remember that…story).

In Britain a young woman (unfortunately) lost her camera. Some delightful chap decided that, rather than keeping the camera to himself, he’d try to get it back to her. Problem: he didn’t have her name, address, or anything that identified her beyond the pictures on the camera. Solution: post all of the pictures from the camera on Facebook and encourage tons of people to join the group the hopes that someone recognizes her. Problem: the embarrassment of having adult and non-adult pictures of yourself posted on the net.

Now, it turns out that this whole thing was viral marketing – the woman is an adult model and this was intended to promote a particular adult website. Nevertheless, based on the posts in the group that was set up, people saw this as a legitimate way to deliver missing property – many didn’t see anything wrong with deliberately posting pictures of a woman in various states of dress without first receiving her willful consent.

McD’s could own my Facebook?

Let’s say that you’ve been talking back and forth with a business partner or fellow corporate drone about work. Let’s go on to say that you’ve actually talked about work – i.e. you’ve shared work-related information with one another. This might mean that your employer may have a legal right to your Facebook (or other social networking) profile on the basis that it’s corporate property. If you’ve created and/or dominantly maintained the profile at work, then it’s even more likely that courts will rule that it’s a bit of corporate property that you’ve only been ‘renting’. Not knowing your corporate usage policy may have already led you to give away your network profile to your employer. While these laws haven stepped into all nation-states around the globe, one has to wonder if the ruling in the linked article isn’t the beginning of something that will cross into many legal jurisdictions.

On the basis of this, think of the number of fast-food corporations already ‘own’ the profiles of their teen employees.

Mmm…let’s all obsess together!

I’ve recently noted that educators just shouldn’t release pictures of their students unless given a really good reason. I had a reason at the time, and that reason is Allison Stokke. When we post our pictures, we at least do it (hopefully) knowing that it could make us ‘popular’ on the Internet in a matter of hours. This isn’t (as large) an issue for men, but for women becoming ‘Internet famous’ is a dandy way of making one’s life much more challenging. Stokke is effectively harassed, all because some sports blogger decided to post a picture of her without her consent. What right did that blogger have to do this, to do something that has severely impacted Stokke’s life? They didn’t have the right – while freedom of speech might make it legally permissible, her right to a reasonable expectation of privacy was contravened because of the blogger’s thoughtless actions. We need to evaluate the series of rights that people have, and how they cascade, in light of the technological developments of the digital revolution.

The lesson

All of these cases demonstrate the need to educate youth (and their elders) about the ways to use the ‘net. Until we engage in political discourse (from which these norms would be developed) social networking sites will continue to operate according to privacy fiats, rather than legislation that is genuinely sensitive to the new technological landscape. Until we change our privacy archetype, and until we instill that archetype in the minds of digital citizens, problems like those listed above will become increasingly prevalent.