Imagine for a moment you are sitting in your dorm, apartment, house or whatever type of residence you may live in, and there is an ominous knock at the door. If you’re like me, you don’t get up from the bed, the couch or your desk; you just yell “Come in!”In walks a campus police officer who hands you a ticket and tells you that you have received an alcohol violation for having alcohol in your dorm room. You say, “Huh? But officer, there is no alcohol in this room.”
“There was in this picture,” he says, handing you a picture of yourself, beer in hand, sitting on the very couch you had been sitting on less than 30 seconds ago. Immediately, you recognize the picture. You remember the “party” in your dorm room the previous weekend, and your stomach turns.
Your brain is immediately clouded with questions about how the campus police got a hold of this picture. Only your friends have seen it, and the only other people who could have seen it would have been … your Facebook friends. But who would have given this to the police?
But Facebook is supposed to be a Web site for college kids not for campus police officers, you think.
This used to be very true, but since Facebookers gained the ability to post pictures of just about anything, there have been reports of things just like this happening at a handful of campuses around the nation.
This doesn’t seem very likely – does it? Maybe not, but in fact, there have been numerous reports of these cases. According to an article published last month in The Purdue Exponent, about 20 Purdue police officers recently received training on how to use Facebook in case there was ever a situation or investigation where the skills were necessary.
According to various blog archives on the Internet, students at the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater have been issued tickets by campus police for violations ranging from alcohol to stolen signs.
Many people argue that the actions taken by the police in these situations are violations of students’ privacy. But we’re talking about the Internet – the very definition of invasion of privacy.
All the students who open Facebook accounts (or MySpace, or any similar site) know that whatever they put on their profiles may be visible to the public. Sure, Facebook is supposed to be limited to students who have valid school e-mail addresses. But it would be naive to think that only college students see what is posted on the sites.
I’m not saying the police should kick down doors and ticket every single underage person who is pictured with alcohol on Facebook. I think that would be an enormous waste of their time. But really, why does it even need to be in question? Common sense should tell us that pictures of people breaking the law shouldn’t be posted on the Internet.
Wasn’t everyone just fine when they looked at pictures on personal computers, not on the Internet? Personally, I think the picture feature of Facebook should be taken out back and shot. By that I mean the site was fine when it had just e-mail, friend features, etc.
Since we can’t really take the picture feature out and shoot it behind the shed, for the love of common sense, pictures that include people committing crimes should be saved for personal folders – not folders visible to half the students at your school.
Dan Plate is a freshman business major from Ogallala, Neb. His column appears every Friday.