Editorial: Online Party Crashers
All good things must come to an end, including the chance to post
lascivious photographs and diary entries on the Internet without
repercussions. A generation that has come of age with blogging,
Webcams and social networking sites is waking up to the fact that
would-be employers are looking over their shoulders -- and adjusting
their job offers.
Alan Finder reported in The Times last week that companies have moved
from putting applicants' names through Google to checking sites like
Facebook and MySpace. There are ethical concerns about corporate
officers snooping through registration-only sites designed for
students. But the first order of business is for the indiscreet to
Every generation has its shrinking violets, and plenty of high school
and college students still comport themselves with dignity and
decorum, but the standards of decency in public behavior have surely
changed. Between reality television shows like "The Real World," and
"Girls Gone Wild" videos, our culture has sent the message that acting
stupid in front of a camera is a way to get attention or even start a
career in show business. Many young people think nothing of posting
intimate material on the Web, whether it's daily minutiae, personal
poems or snapshots of a fraternity beer pong tournament.
What they are getting now is an education in the virtues of privacy.
The Internet feels private in certain ways that it isn't. Sharing
posts with friends, fellow hobbyists or potential dates, a user could
be forgiven for overlooking the possibility that a human resources
executive might be zeroing in as well. So much attention has been
focused on sexual predators and swindlers that it's easy to forget
that businesses and the government want to retain the right to peruse
our correspondence as well.
A recent survey found that more than a third of large American
companies read their employees' outbound e-mail, and just under a
third fired someone as a result. We are only just beginning to wake up
to the wider ramifications of the Internet on the personal and the
confidential. In the meantime, don't leave a digital trail. That
photograph from your friend's party could be more than just
embarrassing. It might cost you your dream job.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
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