Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Privacy (or lack of) on Facebook… a Constitutional Issue?

Usage of social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace is becoming ubiquitous, especially among high school students. In fact, you may not be surprised to hear that while your students are supposed to be studying for your exam or researching for their term paper, they are signed onto Facebook instead. Recently, these social networking websites have brought up various issues that can be used to start an interesting conversation regarding your students' constitutional rights.

In a recent Washington Post article, Campus police admit to using social networking websites to help monitor problems within the student body. Fights in the student body are resolved, resources for runaway children are made available, and arrests have been made for gang members soliciting students to join their gang. Is this a violation of privacy? Doesn’t the Constitution protect privacy?

The creators of Facebook are facing a lot of criticism about the ways in which the site uses its members' personal information. If members do not set their privacy preferences correctly, many uninvited viewers have access to the information being posted. The complexity of setting privacy preferences have allowed police, parents, and employers to view information posted on these websites which have resulted in many claims of invasion of privacy.

This issue may ignite some passions in your students as they think of potentially incriminating, or at least compromising, information they have posted on websites like Facebook or MySpace. Use this opportunity to tie in the Constitution and also teach a life lesson. Ask your students where in the Constitution the protection of privacy exists, then have them assess whether Facebook is violating their constitutional right to privacy. You can have them use the search function in our interactive Constitution (click here to access the interactive Constitution).

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