New Castle News

March 26, 2012

Mitchel Olszak: Don’t expect me to start using Facebook

Mitchel Olszak
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — If you go looking for my Facebook site, you won’t find it.

That’s because I don’t have one. There are several reasons I have refused to join the Facebook rush, but mainly, it’s because I prefer to operate in the real world, rather than in a virtual one.

Coming in a close second among my reasons to live a Facebook-free life, is my skepticism about making one’s comings and goings so public. I am constantly amazed at how casually — and often so recklessly — people will post things about themselves for the whole world to see.

This situation isn’t limited to Facebook, of course. Anything passing through the Internet should be treated as public information as far as I’m concerned. Send out an email and you have no idea where it will wind up.

It’s worth remembering that not everyone who claims to be a friend on Facebook or somewhere else actually falls into that category. And in the Internet era, the old saying that it’s not a secret if two people know it holds especially true.

Despite such obvious concerns, people still post stuff that’s embarrassing or even harmful to themselves. Warnings about material winding up on the Web that can cause self-inflicted wounds years later appear to have minimal impact. Some people just like to talk about themselves.

In the world of work, employers have learned that monitoring Facebook and other social network sites can be useful in uncovering problem employees, malcontents and complainers. What people post to the Web says something about them, and employers may not like it.

When it comes to interviewing prospective employees, the Associated Press reported recently that some employers ask candidates to hand over their Facebook passwords. This allows for the ability to roam through pages, supposedly to better gauge potential hires.

But isn’t that an invasion of privacy, or coercion when it comes to people looking for work in a difficult economy?

Possibly not. While privacy rights exist and citizens are protected from unwarranted searches, these constitutional standards apply to government. If a private employer wants to gain access to your personal postings on Facebook, that’s a much grayer area of the law.

And if you use Facebook from work, you may forfeit any claim of privacy rights. Computer equipment in the workplace belongs to the employer. A company can use software to record keystrokes to know everything you are doing.

So if you complain about your job, or make fun of your boss on a Facebook page, don’t be surprised if it comes back to haunt you. Again, what’s on the Web can’t be construed as private.

Does this mean joining Facebook or engaging in other forms of social networking is a bad idea? I suppose that’s something of a judgment call, but it certainly means those who post material about themselves and others online need to exercise a measure of caution. Too much personal information could prove to be costly.