I am still uncertain whether social networking is the equivalent of phenomena such as mood rings, pet rocks or Rubik’s Cube; or is it more akin to fads like global warming, Internet or cell phones? Whether it is LinkedIn, the more professional site, MySpace or Facebook, the more casual and personal sites, or Twitter, the immediate gratification site, these social networking sites (SNS) have a life of their own. SNS can build or destroy a career. Romances come and go on these sites. They’re also platforms to facilitate or commit various crimes ranging from murder to rape to prostitution to bullying to stalking. In ways both good and bad, the SNS have become a proxy for human interaction, which I believe should concern us all. Either way, as we casually allow social networking to consume us, there are some legal issues we need to consider.
There’s another consideration that isn’t receiving appropriate attention—privacy. As we complete the profiles for these SNS, do we have sufficient awareness about the danger to our privacy? If you post information on an SNS, it would be difficult to sustain a legal claim about an invasion of privacy by an employer, government agency or educational institution.
They’re also platforms to facilitate or commit various crimes ranging from murder to rape to prostitution to bullying to stalking.
You can’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy if you are the one posting the objectionable details. “Sexting,” the sending or posting of sexually explicit material, is a behavior that our young people use that will have ramifications when the warnings in this column are long forgotten.
There is bright side to SNS. President Obama’s innovative use of SNS as a political tool should have us contemplating the enormous power of these tools. President Obama raised hundreds of millions of dollars during his presidential campaign. Mr. Obama also retained the ability to communicate directly with millions of Americans without the filter of mainstream media. If we’re lucky, campaign finance reform will take place regardless of whether Congress decides to act against their financial interests due to proven fundraising power of SNS.
As technology evolves, the legal issues associated with it will also become more sophisticated and complex. Others may have very different plans for your information that aren’t in your personal, professional or legal interests. As we all try to determine the best use for SNS, follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/PolicyEsq.