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Why Facebook?

A while ago, I never would have thought I'd be signing up for one of those social networking sites. The idea of thousands, possibly even millions of anonymous people being able to read all about me at any time just didn't appeal to me. But then my roommate last year introduced me to Facebook, and it just seemed different somehow at the time. For one thing, you needed your university ID to even access the site, and when you got there, nearly all the people there had actual names and faces, not pseudonyms hiding behind avatars. Also, everyone I've befriended since then I have at least some passing familiarity with in real life. It's been an invaluable tool for keeping track of certain people I otherwise would have totally lost all connection to as soon as I left high school. Maybe I was slightly ignorant back then, but now I've certainly heard the horror stories, people getting turned down for jobs or even arrested because of things they posted on Facebook. The story in the Cornell University article about the student who was turned down for a job because of what he posted in a chat room is particularly chilling for me because this tells me that could happen anywhere online. Because of this, I've made sure not to post any extremely personal information on my Facebook profile beyond fairly mundane things about school and random interests.

However, knowing about stories like those, I have to wonder, how much is too much? While I know people should be aware that the internet is a very public place, couldn't some people be intentionally led into a sense of false privacy? After all, what's the point of privacy settings if your Facebook profile isn't really private anyway? Seven hundred thousand people were outraged when every single move they made on Facebook was suddenly tracked by the "news feed," not an insignificant number by any means (Schneier, Lessons From the Facebook Riots). Would that many people have made such a fuss if the ownership of the information posted on Facebook was common knowledge? It might be a sign that more people need to be educated on this serious issue, but still, the companies being entrusted with this kind of information don't seem to be all that concerned with letting you know about it.