Group 1- Victoria Shulman, Laureen D’Amato and
Professor Eric LePage
Making Connections: Networking INST 526
August 8, 2008
MySpace and Facebook Social Networking Tools
There are millions of active users, with more joining every day, on Facebook and MySpace, and it is evident that the social network is here to stay. So who are these social network enthusiasts? In light of the media attention that they attract, we tend to think that these social networking sites are aimed at and used primarily by adolescents; the statistics say otherwise. According to the statistics kept by Facebook (2008), 50% of their users are older than college age and the median age of MySpace users is 25 as reported from Jeremiah Owyang, Sr. Analyst at Forrester Research (2008). By the same token, the age of users who are now joining these social networks seems to be dropping. In one local school an 8th grader estimated that about half of her class had Facebook accounts. Both sites will no doubt continue to grow as more users are added at an amazing rate.
The attraction to a social network and the benefits it provides vary with each age group. The common denominator is the social aspect of keeping in touch with friends and online socializing. Facebook and MySpace allow users to keep in touch, catch up with life events, share photos, and find out about social events all electronically. Profile pages allow users to announce everything from their relationship status to the charities they support. Facebook and MySpace have thousands of applications which allow users to design and individualize their profile page to reflect their personal interests and personality.
The college age students that originally began using Facebook and MySpace are now living their adult lives and use the social networks to continue the social cyber relationships they began in college. Adult users say they view the sites from time to time to stay in touch with far away friends, share pictures and videos, plan events, get updates on people they do not see, or to support a cause.
College age students use the sites for many of the same reasons, but much more frequently. With the active social calendar of many college students, these networks are used to announce social plans, share photos, and join groups to share mutual interests. Although there have been many recent news stories regarding the dangers of posting photos that expose questionable conduct, students continue to do so and authorities will continue to use posted content for their advantage. Recently there was an article on MSNBC regarding a student who after recently being arrested for DUI and sending a woman to the hospital, posted photos of himself on Facebook dressed as a prisoner for a Halloween party (Tucker, 2008). Upon seeing these pictures the prosecutor rendered the defendant as unremorseful, the judge agreed and sentenced him to the maximum term.
The use and importance of MySpace and Facebook to teenagers has risen dramatically in the past few years. Teenagers use the sites for the same things as the older users with a few variations that reflect their age group. For many the social aspect expands to be somewhat of a popularity contest. Students at a local high school had a contest to see who had the most “friends” and many of these friends were not people known personally. In speaking to high school students about their network use, many admitted to “Facebook Stalking”, which involves reading an individual’s entire profile page just for fun. Some of this use can be obsessive and potentially dangerous. As digital natives teenagers also use the sites in a way that reflects the electronic world they live in. They communicate practices and rehearsals to an entire team or group, work on school group projects electronically and plan social and school events.
According to Facebook.com Principles, “the site was built to help you share information with friends and they give you control of who can view your information” (2007). According to MySpace.com, the site “is an online community that lets you meet your friends' friends” (2003-2008). Both MySpace.Com and Facebook.Com have elaborate terms of agreement and privacy policies posted on their websites that explain all about their terms and privacy.
According to the Facebook privacy page, it is a licensee of the TRUSTe Privacy Program. According to the TRUSTe site, “TRUSTe helps consumers and businesses identify trustworthy online organizations through its Web Privacy Seal, Email Privacy Seal and Trusted Download Programs. TRUSTe resolves thousands of individual privacy disputes every year” (Facebook, 2008). On the TRUSTe site there is a tutorial created for Parents and Teachers regarding online privacy. There was a page dedicated to Social Networking and Instant Messaging. It states that using a social networking site provides a “place for kids to get together online with existing and new friends, when used carelessly, however, these sites can expose children to identity theft and predators” (2008). The site makes these suggestions regarding online safety:
1. When creating their profile on these pages, children should not provide personal information such as real name, age, location.
2. These sites allow the child to create his/her own Web page. Children should not provide any indentifying personal information on that page; they should keep that page private and the limit access to this page on only invited friends.
4. Make sure, as parents that you read and understand the information these sites provide to parents.
The Facebook site also participates in the governments EU Safe Harbor Privacy Framework. According to the ECommerce Web page, “The Safe Harbor program encompasses seven principles. All compliant organizations must agree to:
1. Notify Internet users about the type of data collected at the Web site, the manner in which it is collected, for what purpose, and whether it will be disclosed to third parties. They must also inform users of options for limiting the use and disclosure of that information.
2. Provide individuals with the chance to opt out of having their personal data collected or disseminated to third parties.
3. Guarantee that data will be transferred only to other Safe-Harbor compliant parties.
4. Facilitate individual’s access to their personal data and provide a means for them to correct inaccurate information.
5. Undertake "reasonable precautions" to secure the data from loss, alteration, or unauthorized access or disclosure.
6. Utilize the data only for purposes that have been disclosed to the individuals.
7. Put in place enforcement mechanisms that will ensure compliance. These include providing accessible, affordable, and independent venues through which individuals can lodge complaints for breach of Safe Harbor principles and through which justifiable damages can be awarded, and a system to verify that the company has in fact implemented the Safe Harbor principles.” (Ecommerce, 2008)
Privacy is a very important issue when it comes to children’s safety today. Many children only see a software application that allows them to communicate and express themselves through images, text, and videos. MySpace and Facebook have grown as big as they are because of the ease of creating something teens can call their own. It allows them to escape daily life and blog about something bothering them in the form of an online journal. Most teens do not realize how potentially dangerous this can be. When they post pictures and blogs online, they are opening the gate for many people to read and/or see private things. With hackers and predators seizing every moment to have possible interaction with children, more privacy laws and settings need to be put in place.
More and more children are starting to realize the magnitude of the risks associated with Facebook and MySpace. When teaching Internet Safety to students, it should be explained that companies and colleges check these sites daily to see the online behavior of potential applicants. If users do not set their privacy settings correctly, it is possible for anyone to see their information and images and many images are not appropriate for everyone to see.
Many children are put in danger because they release more information than they should to the public. Predators are able to access children’s personal information such as the school they attend, where they like to hang out, what sports they play, what they look like, and sometimes where they live. This information should not be broadcast on the Internet for everyone to see. The reality is, teens are going to continue to use MySpace and Facebook and the social network is here to stay. Teachers and parents need to focus on how to guide children so they can use these sites in a safe and controlled way.
One way to keep children safe while they use these sites is to only allow specific friends to see information and images. On Facebook there is a specific link called “Privacy”. This allows you to set different settings to each section of your page. You can get specific settings for your profile, select who can search for you and see your profile, and who can see your “News Feed” and “Mini-Feed”. The profile link is the most important, as it allows you to “control who can see your profile and personal information” (Zuckerberg, 2008). Some choices of how this can be set up are: only friends, your network and friends, friends of friends or you can customize individual specified people. The best choice is to choose the option of “friends”. This ensures that only people who are “friends” on Facebook can see profile information. Users should always know who their friends are and should never befriend someone they do not know personally.
News Feeds and Mini-Feeds have become an issue of privacy within Facebook. Always choose friends for this option, although allowing anyone to see this information is going beyond certain boundaries. The point of these two applications is to show your friends exactly what you do on Facebook, including who you befriend, changes in your profile, if you wrote on someone’s wall and exactly what you wrote. This breaks the mentality of “sharing” information and allows all of your friends to know exactly what you are doing on Facebook. This has also been referred to as “Facebook stalking”. You are stalking someone because not only can you see what information is being sent, but also at exactly what time Suzie wrote to Johnny. There is an option to shut off the News Feeds and Mini-Feed and this should be encouraged.
MySpace has many of the same policies and safety information as Facebook. You can control who views your profile and photos and also block certain users. Within MySpace you can be messaged by anyone, regardless of your settings. This includes Spam messaging. There is a security feature within MySpace which allows you to report Spam and any other person who may be bothering you. Another negative feature MySpace has is that your friends can see when you are online. With Facebook, this feature can be turned off and on depending on how private you wish to remain.
There will always be privacy issues when it comes to the internet, no matter the website. As parents and teachers we need to guide and educate children. As more applications and groups are added a lot more personal information about individuals will be out there for all to see and that may be too much sharing. Social networks have many benefits and should be used for all the good things that they are: staying in touch with friends, socializing, planning events, supporting a cause, and as an educational technology tool. To use these sites safely, children need to be educated and informed of the privacy settings and policies and how to set them properly to ensure their safety. Users need to learn to keep their private life private and know who they are sharing with and to remember that once it is out there for all to see, there is no taking it back.
Tucker , Eric (2008, July 18). Don't drink and drive, then post on Facebook: Photos on social networking sites come back to bite defendants. Retrieved July 31, 2008, from MSNBC Web site: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25738225/%3E1=43001.
Zuckerberg, Mark Elliot (2008). About Facebook. Retrieved July 31, 2008, from Facebook website: http://www.facebook.com/about.php.
(2008). Facebook pressroom. Retrieved July 31, 2008, from Facebook website: http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics.
(2007). Facebook principles. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from Facebook website: http://www.facebook.com/policy.php.
Anderson, Thomas “Tom”. (2003-2008). MySpace. Retrieved July 31, 2008, from MySpace website: http://www.Myspace.com.
(2003-2008). About Us. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from MySpace website: http://www.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=misc.aboutus.
(2008). Safe Harbor Privacy Framework. Retrieved July 31, 2008, from Ecommerce website: http://ecommerce.hostip.info/pages/915/Safe-Harbor-Privacy-Framework.html.
(2007). Facebook 101 for parents. Retrieved July 31, 2008, from Surfing the Net with Kids website: http://www.surfnetkids.com/safety/facebook_101_for_parents-18907.htm.
(2008). Online privacy: A tutorial for parents and teachers. Retrieved July 31, 2008, from TRUSTe website: http://www.truste.org/pdf/parent_teacher_tutorial.pdf.
Owyang, Jeremiah (2008, January). Social Network Stats: Facebook, MySpace, Reunion . Retrieved July 31, 2008, from Web strategy by Jeremiah Web site: http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/01/09/social-network-stats-facebook-myspace-reunion-jan-2008/.
Other sites that you may want to visit for information regarding Facebook and MySpace include: