Friday, May 01, 2009

The Safety Syndrome

The other evening, the local news gave its teaser headline: A young woman was threatened on Facebook. Stay tuned to learn the details.

Well, I thought--what has happened. Every so often, there is a story about this or that breach of personal safety with Facebook as the vehicle, or some other electronic mechanism.

For example, I heard about a couple who was sued, with the actual serving being accomplished through Facebook. This story came out of Australia--and even though I "googled" to find out more details, I couldn't verify what exactly happened.

Anyone in the job market should be cautious about the information available for the finding on Facebook, or other internet sites.

And, of course, there is cyberstalking.

When the local news got around to the Facebook story, it turned out a young woman was threatened with bodily harm by her ex-boyfriend on Facebook. So, the story was NOT that Facebook is dangerous, but that it was the MEANS whereby a very misdirected young man threatened someone.

Safety, of course, is a very important consideration. We should all be aware of ways that we are exposed, with the Internet magnifiying that exposure. But, Facebook itself is NOT to blame. You can set your profile in such a way that only approved people can view it. And you can turn down any and all requests that you have no idea where they originate.

I get the impression that local news features such stories partly because they want to sensationalize the issue, and partly because they don't understand the technology. What they clearly do NOT intend to do is provide useful information that reasonable people can act upon. So, what can we do?

Use common sense--it applies as easily in the new wired environment as it did before we have such a thing as cyberspace.


Liza Lee Miller said...

It's kinda nuts, isn't it? Whenever they talk about the "Craig's List Killer" my husband shakes his head and wonders if the guy had contacted people through personal ads would he be called the "Penny Saver Killer?" I don't think so.

NCmountainwoman said...

When email became commonplace, I received some valuable advice that has stuck with me through all the advances in technology.

"Never put anything in an email (or on the Internet) that you wouldn't want to see posted by the water cooler at work."

As for the "news," I listen to NPR and watch Newshour with Jim Lehrer. The rest of it is just sensationalism and half-truths.

Dog_geek said...

Still, though, I am shocked at what the undergrads around here put up on their Facebook or MySpace pages for prospective employers and everyone else in the world to see. I keep telling them not to put things out there that they wouldn't want a prospective employer to see, but most of them don't believe me that those hiring will look.

Ginger said...

Same rules of decency and safety are going to apply whichever world you're in, in my opinion. It amazes me when young people think they can throw the "house" door and windows wide open in the virtual world, when they wouldn't do that in the 3-D world.

Ruth said...

People are quick to demonize newer technologies. Members of my family refuse to use the internet for financial transactions, but will use checks which have their own risks and bank card readers which can also be compromised. My work place is very strict about Facebook (it is blocked at work) and some employees have been disciplined for talking about patients and work situations online. I no longer have my employer on my profile.

Jayne said...

There is a false sense of security in that people forget just how many have access to the information they put out there. Like Ginger said, people would not think of sharing the same stuff in the 3-D world.

Ginnie said...

I think you hit it on the head...COMMON SENSE.

JeanMac said...

Ginnie nailed it - common sense.