The end of privacy

| Staff Columnist

Audrey Westcott
Imagine you went out with your friends last weekend and you had a fun night. This is college, so there was drinking and partying, and there were photographs to document the adventure. Your friend who took the photos, through no fault of his own, took a particularly incriminating photograph of you and put it on Facebook.

You, being an enterprising student, realize the danger of being tagged in photos that depict you drinking or partying, so you decide to untag yourself to make sure that future employers don’t find your photo.

The problem is, that photo isn’t gone, nor is it inaccessible. It isn’t deleted or removed—it is there, waiting for someone with access to it to come and find it.

I’ll assume for the moment that all of us have Facebook profiles, or participate in some other social networking activity. I write columns for Student Life, so my opinions are out there on the Internet, ready for anyone who Googles my name.

No matter how hard we try, once something is put on the Internet, it is essentially there forever. Almost every site we use (Google in particular) indexes just about every search, and it is possible to find out just what people have looked for throughout their entire lives.

Have you ever tried deleting your Facebook profile before? You can simply get rid of it sure, but it isn’t gone, especially because it’s possible to log back in a few months later and pick up as though you had never stopped. Facebook doesn’t have to get rid of anything, because once something is up, it is in the public domain, and they have the servers to keep everything running.

The suggested course of action for legitimately erasing a Facebook profile is to actually individually delete every single post, photograph, message, like, etc. (a process which, for someone who has been on Facebook since high school, can take hours), at which point you can close your account without worry.

We all know the risks involved in this system. We are advised to make sure photos don’t go up that people who might employ us later can see, or to make sure we don’t do anything stupid or embarrassing, especially if it could become a problem later on.

The thing is, nobody actually lives their lives like that. Nobody can legitimately go out with their friends on the weekend, trying to have a good time, and actually avoid every single camera, in the misguided hope that embarrassing Facebook photos won’t come up.

As we start to live more and more of our lives online, it cannot reasonably be expected for people to explain every single action that they take. Everyone should be afforded a degree of privacy, and if that privacy isn’t available, then everyone else should try to ignore the things that don’t really matter.

It shouldn’t be up to students to make sure that they look like perfect snowflakes to everyone else in the world so it doesn’t ruin their futures. Everyone has a life beyond their application for a job, and you can’t expect them not to live it.

It is instead up to employers to come to the realization that the person they are hiring might not be the most perfect applicant that there ever was and accept someone who might have a drunken post or a few embarrassing photos.

It isn’t as though college students thirty years ago didn’t do the same things we do today. They drank, they smoked and they hooked up. They lived the so-called “college existence” too, some of them to a degree beyond ours. For them, there was never any way the rest of the world could find out, so it wasn’t as important.

It shouldn’t be our job to worry about how we are living our lives outside the workplace, so long as we come into our work with professionalism and dedication. Employers should start ignoring things on Twitter and Facebook because they should know a three-year-old photograph that I can’t get rid of doesn’t determine what type of person I am.

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