Social Media and Privacy

Since 2004 when Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, social media has grown to be an important aspect in most people’s lives, especially college students. Most students actively engage with social media, and some post intimate details and pictures of their daily lives. Simply looking at a student’s social media site can reveal his/her personality, without ever even meeting the person. This increased access to students’ personal information has sparked heated debates in many schools.

Universities across the US have implemented policies in their student athletic programs that require schools to monitor their athletes’ online presence. Some view these regulations very critically saying they are a violation of privacy.

According to this article from the New York Times, a bill has recently been introduced to the Maryland state legislature that would stop all Maryland schools from monitoring their students’ social media sites. The bill’s main purpose is to protect athletes’ privacy, but it would also apply to all other students. Under the new bill, universities could no longer legally require students to install monitoring software on their computers or give out their user information to administrators or compliance officers. The goal is to protect the students’ right to privacy.

I cannot say whether or not I am for or against this bill. Universities should not require student athletes’ social media to be monitored. The students are adults and should be capable of handling their own personal lives. However, as far as privacy goes, the athletes gave up that right to privacy as soon as they created the social media account. Yes, they can change their settings to make them more private, but everything they post is still seen by hundreds of people, and can never be permanently erased from the Internet. People who they are not “friends” with can still see pictures of them being posted by friends, and everything they say and do can be accessed by the authorities. Therefore, I agree with the argument that universities should not be keeping this close of tabs on their students; but I disagree with the argument that it is to protect their privacy. However, students aren’t the only ones affected by bills like this proposed in Maryland.

According to this article, from the Capital News Service of Maryland, the Senate is also reviewing a bill that would apply to businesses checking up on employees and prospective employees through social media.  According to the article, Senator Ronald N. Young said that the practice of monitoring students’ and employees’ social media sites is “stepping on constitutional rights. They don’t have the right to come into your house and listen to your telephone calls or read your mail.” As true as this is, the bill still faces some opposition. The legislative director for the Maryland Retailers Association thinks the bill is “too vague” because it does not exempt employer-supplied hardware or Internet services.

Similar legislation has started to arise states other than Maryland, and soon social media privacy may become a more seriously and widely debated issue.



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