Creeptastic or Common Sense: Are Your Public Social Networks Fair Game for Information Gathering?

I’m always of mixed opinion when it comes to anyone (CIA, NSA, LEOs, or the local school board) using public social media to “spy” on people.

There’s the part of me that feels totally creeped out by the idea that the NSA or my professor might be looking at what I post online, but the analytical side of my brain reminds me “It’s public social media stupid, you chose to post it where people could read it.”

That side of the brain is usually the one I come down on in these situations.

See, I’m firmly against the NSA or some other part of the government (or my school) getting into my private emails or phone records, because I believe that (based on the law) I should have a reasonable expectation that my text messages to my mom about picking up milk and my emails back and forth with our Editor in Chief are private in nature. I didn’t give them my password and I didn’t CC them on emails or include them in a group text messaging spree, so what I say in those conversations is none of their business.

Twitter and other public social networks (including facebook if you have your privacy settings set to “public” viewing) don’t usually have that expectation. Whether it’s my boss or my professor or my best friend, those posts are visible to anyone who cares to look at them.

Here’s the last two tweets I sent at the time I wrote this:

I need some ice cream right freakin’ now.

— MeredithAncret (@MeredithAncret) September 16, 2013

11am and I still have no intention of getting up. Sorry guys, I’m taking a day off. @ The Lair “Mwahaha”

— MeredithAncret (@MeredithAncret) September 15, 2013

Both of these are completely public and anyone in my life who knows me well enough will be able to find this information.

Most people who receive my resume would have no problem finding my account either.

Based on these tweets I might suffer repercussions. My prospective employer might be a vegan who doesn’t take kindly to my ingestion of delicious, exploitative dairy products or they might just think I’m slothful and lazy for spending most of my Sunday in bed.

That’s up to them. I honestly don’t know how a friend or employer or contact will react to my tweets and I try not to post anything too crazy or offensive as a result (though, if you know me, that doesn’t always work) but I understand that my public tweets and instagrams are pretty much fair game as far as people’s judgment of me. Whether this is someone looking at my instagram photos of my dog or reading my latest tumblr rant about why communists suck.

Why am I posting about this?

Well partly because Meghan McCain is terrified at how little privacy she has on her social networks. As if we asked her to post her cleavage and stupid political “theories” on twitter.

Mostly because I’m seeing a lot of outrage from people about the fact that a school district in California has decided to comb through their students social networks for signs of criminal activity.

Los Angeles (CNN) — A suburban Los Angeles school district is now looking at the public postings on social media by middle and high school students, searching for possible violence, drug use, bullying, truancy and suicidal threats. The district in Glendale, California, is paying $40,500 to a firm to monitor and report on 14,000 middle and high school students’ posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media for one year.


Predictably people started yelling about “invasion of privacy” and “4TH AMENDMENT!” like crazy and I understand the temptation.

However, you’re wrong.

Do I think this is stupid?


Do I think it’s a waste of tax payer dollars?

Yes, but so is most of the public school system (especially in California).

Do I think the school district is going to get their pants sued off over punishing kids for posts on social networks?

Yeah, probably, but everyone gets sued for everything these days.

What this is not is a violation of privacy. If your social network is public for the world to view, then you run the risk that you might say or do something that will get you in trouble with your parents, your teachers, or maybe even law enforcement.

This sort of stuff has already been used in court before.

Go figure, you need to think before speaking or, in this case, tweeting.

Maybe this is actually a lesson high school students need to learn.

Yes, you do have freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean that posting that picture of your new crack pipe or that vine detailing your burgeoning attempt at arson is a good idea.

Actions do have consequences and if you are publicly publishing proof of those actions, don’t be surprised when it comes back to bite you later.

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Categorised in: America, Conservative, Media, Politics

3 Responses »

  1. LOVE THAT PIC! Where'd you find it? I MUST HAVE IT!

  2. I think we must become more and more aware of what happens if we spread all our information over the internet. They create a profile about us. We should protect ourselves

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