Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Facebook Content: Who Owns What?

Update: Facebook has done an "about face" on its content policy since this was first posted. However, I'm leaving this entry posted because of the issue it addressed at the time.

CBS 2 Chicago interviewed some of our Columbia College Chicago Advanced Sports Reporting students on Monday night about the new Facebook content policy.

The policy change has some members nervous because they believe it would allow Facebook to use their content however it wants, even if the member deletes the material or cancels an account. Facebook has said otherwise, but I'm curious how it will actually use the content.

My concern is Facebook's perceived rights to sell content to third parties: My name, age, e-mail address, mailing address and other content that e-marketers would love to get their hands on.

As for what I post to Facebook, not much will change. Outside of my 8th-grade yearbook photo, there's not any incriminating information there. I joined a few humor groups and I'm a fan of a few TV shows and products. That's about as exciting as it gets.

As I've often warned students, friends and colleagues, don't post anything to a social networking site that you wouldn't want your boss, family member or parents to see. Common sense trumps all here.

It amazes me how many people post drunken pictures of themselves, disclose personal information and other material to these sites, and expect no consequences. Job placement firms and hiring managers say they comb these sites often, looking for information about potential job candidates.

Your posts are part of the portrait you paint of yourself. And the audience can be anyone -- a friend, potential employer, etc.

Just be careful what paint brush you use.

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