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article imageOp-Ed: Will using passwords and privacy settings matter in the future?

By Leigh Goessl     Mar 8, 2012 in Internet
Social networks provide privacy settings as a means for users to have some level of control of what they want to share, but recent trends appear to indicate these settings may be useless in the long-term.
If current trends continue, those privacy settings, or even passwords, on social media accounts won't be worth much.
According to a report this week, employers and schools routinely ask for access to social media accounts, such as Facebook.
Employers want to see inside Facebook accounts
Nowadays, with 'real name' policies, it is a given that anyone who wants to protect their social media reputation needs to watch what they share on networks and be sure to use privacy settings. It's an assumption employers search the web looking for information on job applicants and employees. Some think that is bad enough, but what about situations where an employer or school actually demands to see what's inside a personal account?
According to an MSNBC The Red Tape Chronicles report, employers and colleges view the idea of looking inside individual Facebook accounts appealing and are "demanding full access" from job applicants and students. In the case of students, its noted, often it is required to 'friend' a compliance officer or coach on Facebook and give them the highest level of access.
The Red Tape report describes how colleges and employers find information found on social media "just too tempting" and want to be on the inside in an up-close and personal fashion. As an example, the report shares how individuals hoping to gets a job with the State of Maryland's Dept. of Corrections are asked to log into their Facebook accounts and allow the interviewer to see what's behind their privacy walls.
And there are no blanket laws to stop them, as it is a state-by-state process. People can say no, but they probably might as well scrap their chances at the job.
Trading off privacy for a job
Tecca reported in Nov. 2011 in North Carolina, an applicant for a clerical position at a police department was flat out asked in the application, "Do you have any web page accounts such as Facebook, Myspace, etc. If so list your user name and password."
The Red Tape reports, "While submitting to a Facebook review is voluntary, virtually all applicants agree to it out of a desire to score well in the interview, according Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Coretz Goemann."
As the floodgates for social media open, can email be far behind?
According to The Red Tape, Bradley Shear, a Washington D.C. lawyer, said, "I can't believe some people think it's OK to do this. Maybe it's OK if you live in a totalitarian regime, but we still have a Constitution to protect us. It's not a far leap from reading people's Facebook posts to reading their email. ... As a society, where are we going to draw the line?"
But will a line be drawn?
Time and time again, privacy has eroded as the Internet becomes intrinsically a part of life. It used to be people rarely shared their 'real' name online, however that notion is practically extinct nowadays.
For years now, as technology progresses, any semblance of privacy has been whittled away either through private industry or government practice. While outrage may initially occur, historically, a level of adaptation eventually occurs in favor of convenience or necessity. Remember when it emerged a cell phone could be tracked via GPS and people balked? Now it's a given. This is just one example, as there are countless other ways digital footprints can be tracked; it's become a way of life, as society becomes accustomed to loss of privacy.
Perhaps, not unlike TSA practices where people are digitally strip-searched. Yet if people want to travel through the U.S., this is the procedure. Will it evolve that giving up social media passwords becomes the norm for seeking, or even keeping, a job? After all, there are no laws preventing it.
In the future, will anyone think twice about handing over their digital keys?
"This is an invasion of privacy. People have so much personal information on their pages now. A person can treat it almost like a diary," said Goemann. "And (interviewers and schools) are also invading other people's privacy. They get access to that individual’s posts and all their friends. There is a lot of private information there."
Should society abandon the notion of privacy altogether?
Aside from the fact Facebook has, in the past, reset privacy settings to default when it makes an upgrade, if employers and schools are demanding to see what's inside accounts, and this becomes routine, it pauses to wonder if there's any point in using settings?
A decade ago people perhaps had some sense of privacy, but in the age of Facebook where real names are encouraged, well required actually, this has changed the dynamics of how people share information online.
The social market has been embraced, and it seems there is no going back now, so what is the alternative? At least passwords and privacy settings helped, at least a little, but if those are fair game, then what? Should our lives simply be an open book? Should privacy become completely extinct?
Would it be acceptable to allow an employer access inside a personal home for the purpose of scoping things out? If not, then society needs to pay attention because it seems as if yet another privacy erosion is in the midst of taking place in the form of invading one's private digital life.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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