The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

In my opinion:

Joe Szydlowski

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It seems like every time that a group of experts on television talk about the internet, the word revolutionary is unavoidable. It revolutionizes the way people conduct business, with some paying all their bills online. It revolutionizes our social life, with more and more people hooking up via online profiles. Information hasn’t escaped the revolution either, with most every publication, news source, and conspiracy theorist establishing their own bulletin board on a corner of cyberspace. But the internet is revolutionizing another aspect of our lives.

Law enforcement.

Now, police and universities are beginning to use sites such as Facebook, Myspace, LiveJournal, and other websites to catch law breakers. These sites allow people, usually students, to create a profile of themselves complete with a picture, diary, and as much information about themselves as they are willing to give.

All of it, of course, is open to the public.

But what is catching the attention of the law enforcement centers on students posting pictures of themselves or information in their blogs about illegal activities they’ve done.

This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Teenagers have videotaped crime sprees before and then wondered how they were caught after someone finds the tape. But this new form of surveillance has sparked some criticisms among the student populace, especially by those who have been caught.

One individual, Cameron Walker, was expelled from Fisher College after the university found messages on his profile suggesting that students should set up an officer to get him fired.

Walker felt that the university had stepped beyond its bounds with its use of what he published on Facebook.

Other students at the University of Kansas also experienced the Internet revolution firsthand when they were charged with violating the code of ethics after trading information on Facebook without the professor knowing.

Students continue to complain about this practice, accusing authorities of fishing, blindly searching for a reason to investigate students.

NKU has also been touched by this digital development. Several students posted pictures on Facebook of themselves drinking in the dorms and were later fined and punished after an RA saw the photos on Facebook.

One NKU student called it an invasion of privacy, saying he never expected anyone from the university to see them.

Expect the unexpected.

None of these students seem to realize that Facebook, Myspace, and the other online journals are actually available to anyone who wants to read them. Anyone. And, despite popular misconceptions, not everyone over the age of 30 is computer illiterate.

Like teens who decide to videotape their vandalism, students who post pictures on the internet for anybody to see should not be surprised when somebody does see them.

Nor should Cameron Walker be surprised that someone decided to report him after he wrote that his nemesis, the officer who supposedly harassed students, needed to be “eliminated.”

Privacy does include personal journals, but if its owner decides to staple a couple entries to a bulletin board, is it still private? Of course not.

These sites are available to anyone with an internet connection. Which means that more sinister forces have access to individual’s information than just police.

Identity theft has become an enormous problem. Some of the information students frequently put on the blogs, such as their full name, birth date, and phone numbers, are practically gold to these thieves.

Facebook, MySpace, and all the other sites are fun, creative ways to meet people. It helps friends keep in touch despite going to schools on opposite sides of the country, or even world.

But some common sense is necessary to survive this revolution. I’m not going to say don’t drink, because that would be like President Bush saying Americans should conserve. But don’t post incriminating photographs on the internet, or write journals about setting up or eliminating police officers. And be very cautious about the information posted. There is no reason why “HoTbUnS69” has to know where you were born or when. And “MASTERvader333” will survive without knowing your exact name.

Instead, just post your hobbies, favorite movies and music, and maybe a sexy photograph. That should be more than enough to get the attention of the people you want, and avoid the people (and consequences) you don’t.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
In my opinion: