Social Networking, your privacy rights explained

The vast majority of young people living in the United States go online daily and use social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. With all this information-sharing, many questions about ownership of personal information and possible discipline for postings arise. This guide will answer some of those questions so that you can better understand the rights you have when using social networking both in and out of school.

Who owns the information I put on these sites?

Because Facebook and other social networking sites are relatively new and constantly changing their privacy policies it is not entirely clear who owns the information you share. In its Statement of Rights, Facebook states, “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.” At the same time, it declares that users grant the company “license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.” In other words, you technically own the content, but Facebook can do whatever it wants with it. Facebook states it does not possess your information after the deletion of your account, but that any personal information or pictures you’ve shared with other users remains the property of Facebook. This lack of clarity makes it all the more essential to think critically about what information you really want to share. The bottom line is: when using any social networking site, you should always read their privacy policy to understand how your information is handled. More often that not, it is up to you to opt out of having your information shared.

Who can see my profile or posts?

Who can see your profile and posts depends on your privacy settings. Each social networking site allows you to control how much information is public or private, but you must be proactive to find out what your settings are, and choose what to keep private. Your information is not automatically private unless you make it so. It is important to recognize that social networking sites ultimately operate to turn a profit by attracting advertisers. The more personal information social networking sites can offer, the more attractive they are to potential advertisers looking to reach customers. When social networking sites share your information (including information that is “private”) with advertisers and developers that build the games, and other websites you use those advertisers and developers can collect a vast amount of personal information about you. Some information you provide on these sites is always public. On Facebook this is true of your username, profile picture and network.

Can I get in trouble at school for something I post online?

You do maintain your freedom of speech rights if you are at a public school (private schools are different). You have a right to express your opinions as long as you do so in a way that doesn’t disrupt classes or other school activities. However, because extracurricular activities are a privilege and not a right, you could jeopardize your right to participate in them if you violate the prescribed rules. Your school may have additional policies regarding usage of school resources like computers, email accounts, or internet access.

Cyberbullying – Don’t Do It!

If you use social networking sites to threaten students or teachers with harm or spread lies about them, you may face legal repercussions. School officials have a responsibility to ensure that school is a welcoming place for all students. Schools may discipline you for what you say and do electronically if it: · Has the effect of substantially interfering with another student’s education · Is severe, persistent, or pervasive so that it creates an intimidating or threatening education environment; or · Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of school; or · Threatens physical harm to someone at school. A school’s anti-bullying policy must be written carefully so that it does not punish opinions or beliefs in and of themselves, but instead punishes impermissible conduct.