Over 175 million people belong to the social networking Web site, Facebook. Founded in 2004, Facebook doubles in size every six months, adding on average 350,000 new members a day. If Facebook were a country, it would be the eighth most populated country in the world. But as Facebook continues to grow, so do the concerns of its users.
“You hear all the time to monitor your Facebook,” said Lia Cronenwett, Saline senior. “Now that I am graduating, it is something I am being more careful about.”
While over 15 post-graduate schools—including the Univeristy of Michigan Medical school and Michigan State Univeristy Law school—were asked to comment on the relationship between a person’s Facebook page and application, each refused comment.
“It is safe to say that employers and grad schools will, at minimum, do a Google search of the person (applicant),” said Shana Plasters, director of career development at Albion. “Students need to understand that anything is put on (the internet) is public, and we often forget that.”
In a study conducted by the Data Documentation Initiative, an initiative to standardize technical documentation, found that 25 percent of employers turn to Facebook and MySpace to learn more about candidates.
Chris Kabot, Bloomfield Hills junior, deleted his facebook account for this reason.
“It just wasn’t worth it to me (to keep a Facebook page) at the cost of not getting into a good school,” Kabot said. “I interned at a dentist office, and one of the interns was actually confronted about pictures of him during an interview for a dental school.”
According to Kabot, this intern thought that he had his pictures on a private setting, but the dental school accessed the photos through a friend who was able to view tagged photos.
Capitalizing on the sway that an internet reputation can have, companies such as Reputation Defender and Visible Technologies monitor and manage personal online content.
Reputation Defender was founded in 2006 and supervises not just a person’s Facebook page, but also other online databases, such as MySpace, CollegeHumor and Webshots. The company charges $14.95 a month to both notify you and remove any incriminating content that they find.
“Things that can be interpreted negatively by potential employer that may not be thought of as negative to another person,” said John Cross, director of products at Reputation Defender. “(And) even if the Web site is no longer up, that content exists in numerous archives. Just because the site is not active, because it did exist at one time, it will exist forever,” Cross said.
According to Cross, Facebook privacy can be tricky.
Facebook users are not protected if their friend’s profiles are public—that is, if someone can see your friend’s photos that contain you, even if your tagged photos are private, others can still view pictures of you.
“There are a lot of variables involved with how much content and who is looking at it,” Cross said.
Reputation Defender and companies like it are not the only ones keeping an eye on people’s online reputations. Oxford University administers fines of $80 to $200, to students whose Facebook profiles contain distasteful pictures.
Tony Harris, Calvin College sophomore, was expelled for writing a Facebook status about a former girlfriend. Harris denies writing the message, but was put on a one-year suspension for violating the college’s technology and conduct codes.