Twitter accounts raise privacy concerns

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    Within the past two months, the Twitter accounts @TCUmakeoutz and@TCU_Passouts have been blowing up the “twitterverse.”

    The accounts are comprised of (mostly) unsuspecting students sharing a kiss or passing out from drinking too much.

    Since their inceptions, the two accounts combine for nearly 2,000 followers and more than 100 pictures of students passing out or kissing.

    Viewers can submit a photo to these accounts via Twitter mention, direct message or email.

    The accounts’ popularity and activity soared over the last couple weeks. During “syllabus week,” which is known as a busy period for many bars surrounding campus, TCU Makeouts posted 98 pictures of students posing with unsuspecting couples kissing.

    Some people that have appeared in a kissing picture posted by TCU Makeouts haven’t been happy.

    One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, was angered to find that TCU Makeouts tweeted a picture of her and her boyfriend sharing a kiss. The picture was removed from the account after her boyfriend emailed the TCU Makeouts Gmail account.

    She said TCU Makeouts and social media behavior was addressed in her sorority’s chapter meeting after the picture was tweeted out by TCU Makeouts.

    “Social media is always addressed. It’s not as big for fraternities as it is for sororities,” she said. “Reputation is big, you don’t want to put out a bad image.”

    However, Andrew Price, a junior criminal justice major, didn’t seem too bitter about a post on TCU Makeouts of him and his girlfriend.

    “I didn’t even notice I was on there. My friend sent [the picture] to me a month later, Price said. “I think [the pictures] are really funny, but if you were making a mistake, I can see how that could be bad. I saw one guy who was cheating on his girlfriend.”

    TCU 360 reached out the creators of both Twitter accounts. TCU Passouts sent a reporter contact information that could not be independently confirmed; therefore, TCU 360 cannot publish the account owner’s comments in this story.

    TCU Makeouts did not disclose identities and wishes to remain anonymous.

    TCU Makeouts does not see any issues with posting pictures of couples kissing in public, nor do they think anyone will find out their true identities.

    “We created the account because a lot of other universities have make out accounts. We decided that it would be a hysterical way to catch people in the act – making out in public. Partly to amuse the student body,“ wrote TCU Makeouts authors in a Twitter direct message. “If someone is concerned about being caught on camera while making out, then they need to stop doing it in public. This account is supposed to be funny and provide laughs to TCU students.”

    The TCU Makeouts authors also wrote that they do not feel responsible for young women getting in trouble with their sororities, but they will take down any photo upon request.

    While these accounts seem aggravating and embarrassing for the students featured on the accounts’ posts, “makeout” and “passout” Twitter accounts are very popular at many other universities. So far, the accounts that associate themselves with TCU have fewer followers than most of the other popular accounts associated with other universities.

    So far, the accounts that associate themselves with TCU have fewer followers than most of the other popular accounts associated with other universities.

    The popularity of these accounts also brings up the issue of the legality of posting pictures of unsuspecting kissing couples and passed out partygoers.

    Chip Stewart, a media law professor at TCU, does not believe that authors of accounts like TCU Makeouts or TCU Passouts are infringing on people’s reasonable expectation of privacy by law, but there are some limitations.

    “People’s right to privacy in public places is pretty limited,” Stewart said. “If you are to be out in a public place, and someone takes your photo, they can post it online and you don’t have any privacy rights that are violated by that kind of thing.”

    However, Stewart goes on to say there may be some situations where taking pictures of unsuspecting people would be unlawful.

    “If it’s done in a private place where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, things get a bit more complicated there. If you violate someone’s particular right of privacy, you may be up for the tort of intrusion, which is using technological means by violating someone’s right to privacy,” he said.

    Stewart ultimately said that taking pictures like the ones featured on the Twitter accounts does not violate any privacy laws.

    “If you are at a club and you take a picture of people making out, take a picture of someone passed out, not a whole lot of privacy rights are violated here,” Stewart said. “We may think that is seems wrong, but the law hasn’t been violated.”

    Twitter itself does not prohibit posting pictures that people in the pictures do not want online unless it violates a copyright law, according to the Twitter terms of service.