She still checks her online profile two or three times each day, but University of Kansas sophomore Holly Garringer is starting to get a little scared of Facebook.
“(Facebook) has entirely changed how you get to know people,” Garringer said, describing the online networking site where millions of college students have posted pictures and descriptions of themselves for the world to see. “It’s kind of scary that that many people can look at you and use small things on your profile to judge if you are going to be a good employee or a reputable person.”
Facebook has raised a barrage of privacy questions recently, with several media outlets reporting that employers have taken to checking profiles on the site to get the scoop on potential recruits.
For the many Facebook members who post pictures or descriptions of themselves drinking under-age, using drugs or participating in other below-the-radar college activities, this raises two problems: the fact that acts like these could cost them a chance at a job, and the fact that employers are looking to begin with.
Exactly how employers are gaining access to Facebook profiles remains a mystery. The site is only open to college users who have valid “.edu” e-mail addresses, and even then an individual profile is viewable only by others at the student’s own school and people that person designates as “friends.”
“It’s important to remember that a future employer would have to be a graduate of the particular school that the interviewee is attending, and that that particular school gives out .edu email addresses to its alumni,” Facebook spokesman Chris Hughes explained. “That combination makes the chances of this happening low.”
But it doesn’t stop with employers. Facebook users have also been reporting cases of campus police and, in some cases, fellow students using profiles to judge their character.
Garringer’s only previous experience with “Facebook profiling” involved a friend who was rejected from a sorority based largely on information in her profile.
After university police at George Washington University shut down a “cake party” where no alcohol was being served, senior Kyle Stoneman suspected that campus officers, many of whom are Facebook members, had been keeping tabs on the arrangements through the site.
What can students do to keep their profiles from being seen? The solution, according to Hughes, is quite simple. “If students don’t want a potential alumnus looking at their profiles, they can just change their privacy settings,” he said. “Simple as that.”
Users can also change their privacy settings on Facebook to block out faculty, staff, summer students, graduate students or other undergraduates, or hide their accounts from the site’s search engine.
Multiple privacy options are not entirely necessary, according to Garranger. Rather, she says, employers should just start taking the profiles a little less seriously.
“I don’t think that you should necessarily have to censor yourself, but at the same time it’s kind of like showing your employer some quotes from your high school yearbook,” she said. “Does it mean I’m an immoral person with immoral friends if somebody jokingly wrote ‘let’s have sex this summer’ in my yearbook? I don’t think so.”