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Volume 71, Issue 147, Thursday, June 29, 2006

Opinion

Privacy not an option on Web

Eva Kaminskayte
Opinion Columnist 

A web log is a great way to get your ideas out for other people to see, whether you use it as a personal diary, a gossip page or the definitive record of government conspiracies and cover-ups. 

Now, as seen on the news lately, there are people on Web sites like MySpace.com who brag about crimes they have committed, and the police have been able to track those individuals down and make them suffer the legal consequences of their actions. 

That seems perfectly justifiable because it can be that the investigators are using all of the resources available to find the people who are wanted by the law. And really, if those people are dumb enough to put incriminating information on a Web site that can be seen by 89.1 million members, then they deserve to be caught.

But what about the people who use their blogs as personal journals, which don't seem to harm anyone, and get dismissed from their jobs for doing so? 

Take the story that was in the New York Times last fall about the woman who lost two jobs simultaneously for a comment on her blog. All she did was say how much she liked goodie bags she often received, and she got dismissed from her job at the Ladies Home Journal and lost the job she was offered by Seventeen. 

I think the magazines took the right course of action in this case. Anything a company officially says goes through editing and gets looked over by supervisors and sometimes lawyers before it gets out to the public. 

If an employee goes onto a blog and says something about the company, how is that different from an employee who talks to reporters? The only real difference is the medium. 

The article didn't mention anything about the privacy policies of the magazines and their stances on accepting gifts. If any of those rules were violated, then the dismissal would have been indisputable.

The bottom line is that you are responsible for what you put on the Internet. Even if it's legal, it can still get you in big trouble -- there is free speech, but there are also consequences.

Blogs aren't the only danger, though -- pictures aren't safe either. What if you have pictures of yourself at a party holding a beer when you're three days shy of your 21st birthday? Theoretically, legal action can be taken against you, and that picture can be very damaging if found by a potential employer. 

So: What about those party pictures that are all over Facebook.com and MySpace.com? Those won't leave a good impression on your boss if they're found. And even if you don't post those pictures, your friends can.

I'm not saying you should get off-line and go live under a rock in order to keep your reputation safe. Go gossip your heart out with your friends and party all you want -- just remember to adjust your privacy settings accordingly, and be careful with what you choose to release to the world. 

Kaminskayte, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at e.kaminskayte@gmail.com

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