As concerns about privacy online grow, more and more people are contemplating opting out of social media altogether. And for some occupations, such as those in which sensitive material about the job could be unintentionally exchanged online, this has been increasingly preferred. The fact that certain top secret occupations and even some private enterprises forbid employees to use social media may be an additional incentive not to use online platforms (Giang 2012). However, for many individuals this is not feasible. Social media is an important source of personal and professional communication and sharing for some and for others it is necessary for their jobs. Although there are concerns that employers can and will check Facebook pages of prospective and current employees, for certain jobs in the media, establishing an online presence is necessary as a condition of employment. As note by journalist Hern (2016), even though he deleted his personal Facebook account and said he didnt miss the site at all he later found out that as a reporter he needed an account for work to manage the Guardians technology page, amongst other things. So I made a new one, with accurate, but minimal info. In the end, I had to enter my real name, real email address, and real phone number, to get on the site (par. 8).
Facebook thus poses additional security concerns in the eyes of many because of the fact that it requires actual, personal data and does not permit individuals to use false information, in contrast to Twitter or Instagram where people can create outlandish fake personas spanning from celebrity parody accounts to accounts allegedly created by pets. This is one of the reasons why Facebook in particular is so often searched by employers, ex-significant others, even stalkers, given that it both requires and invites users to share very personal information in a public way. Facebook has been aware of such concerns, however, and in response has offered tutorials on online privacy to users, which it encourages people to avail themselves of, if they wish to carefully limit and segment the information they share. On one hand, Facebooks privacy guide, with that friendly dinosaur, is also more intuitive than others across the Web, allowing users to hide much of their profile from non-contacts but on the other hand, Facebook is the only social media website that demands that people prove who they are to establish an account (Fox-Brewster 2016, par.8). This is also what makes Facebook so desirable to advertisers. On Twitter, a user may say he or she is someone very different in real life and sponsored advertising targeted at the user may be wildly inaccurate while on Facebook there is a limit to how much the user can bluff about his or her gender, family status, and location information. Even if a user does not post or share much on Facebook, re-sharing various items as well as the individuals contact list can provide clues for advertisers about how to target and position information (Hern 2016).
Facebook encourages users to check how much of their social media information is searchable and visible to the public, and to limit this if they desire. But some users have complained that these controls are unreliable and Facebook has the technical ability to change them at any time. According to Fox-Brewster (2016): Last week, I reviewed my privacy settings in an attempt to ensure my profile couldn’t be found, only to discover that the ability to stop anyone finding me by searching my name had been removed (par. 5). Of course, users can simply reestablish the use of such privacy controls if they have been taken away and unclicked but the fact that users must continually review such settings to ensure that things have not gone back to their default setting is unsettling.
Regardless, it is important that people are aware of their legal rights in regards to social media sharing on Facebook when they are applying for a job or in regards to employer demands to view their profile. This aspect of Internet regulation is still in an emergent state. The fact asking candidates for complete access to their accounts could open the employers up to liability, because if they then decide not to hire the applicant, they could be sued for discrimination may limit the curiosity of some employers, given the ease of finding out someones pregnancy status, sexual orientation, or religion by looking at their Facebook profile, all of which are protected categories on a federal level in some instances and in many states (Giang 2012, par. 4). On the other hand, employment candidates should still be aware of how their profileboth public and privatemight look to a potential employer, rather than trusting Facebook controls blindly. Even something as simple as too many photos on a page of the candidate drinking wine, which might seem very innocent in theory, could become a potential red flag.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, joining Facebook should be viewed as a commitment. One of the most dangerous activities from an online profile standpoint is to join Facebook and not carefully monitor ones privacy controls and page, including the choice of people to share public information about others. For example, tagging someone in a public photo causes the photo to be both searchable online and to appear on the tagged individuals timeline. When people write on your wall or tag you in a status or photo, you might not want some people to see it (Titcomb, 2106, par. 13). Facebook provides the ability to delete offending items from someones wall but users must be vigilant when such posting occurs. Turning off the ability of people to post on ones wall may be advisable, particularly if friends have different personal boundaries.
Fox-Brewster, T. (2016). Facebook is playing games with your privacy and there is nothing you
can do about it. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2016/06/29/facebook-location-tracking- friend-games/
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