When The Hatchet began investigating the story of a student who was arrested for possession with the intent to distribute marijuana last week, background material was just a click away.
The fact that Student Judicial Services and other campus offices use Facebook and other online sites to monitor student behavior should not be surprising, especially when access to potentially incriminating evidence is so easy. Numerous reports over the past two years have shed light on instances in which administrators use Facebook to investigate student behavior. Students should realize that they are liable for content posted on the Internet.
Social networking Web sites should be enjoyable resources for students to maintain friendships and meet new people in cyberspace. Users must realize, however, that such content is voluntarily posted in the public domain and is no longer their personal property. While the online personal data and images collected by GW, other universities and private businesses may spur a vigorous debate on privacy issues, those who choose to post their contact information, activities and pictures should not be the ones who are surprised.
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this issue is the willingness of our generation to voluntarily submit information about ourselves to areas of public scrutiny. Often ignorant to the operation of Web sites that allow users to post information, students readily leave an electronic trail of personal data that may be stored on servers for many years.
As more University departments, such as GW’s athletic programs, use Facebook and other sites to monitor their students, more members of the GW community will likely express outrage over such actions. It is, however, a student’s responsibility to treat the Internet as the public domain it is and operate accordingly.