Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, October 18, 2018

Public Safety emphasizes discretion with Facebook

Students can utilize security features to limit profile views and expand privacy options

AU students must educate themselves about the risks that accompany membership on profile sites such as Facebook.com, according to Michael McNair, director of Public Safety at AU.

McNair warned students that they must be wary of the type of information they post on their Facebook profiles.

"It tells, in some cases, where a hometown is, their birthday date - kinds of information they give credit card companies," he said.

Students often post their residence halls and room numbers, a move that puts them at risk for theft. There has already been an incident where a student used Facebook to access information about where people lived in order to steal their laptops, according to McNair.

"Sites like that are a stalker's dream," he said.

Some students are unaware of the function that enables only friends to view profiles, according to Lisa Sherman, a sophomore in the College of Arts and

Sciences.

"Sometimes I get creepy messages from guys I don't know," Sherman said. "They say it is because they were bored and saw my profile while they were looking on Facebook. I really wish I could avoid that."

While some students recognize the potential threat Facebook poses, most are not overly concerned, according to David Lewin-Rowen, a sophomore in CAS.

"Just because there may be a risk does not mean that students will stop posting personal information on the Facebook," Lewin-Rowen said.

Lewin-Rowen also mentioned the positive aspects of Facebook.

"It's very easy to keep in contact with friends," Lewin-Rowen said. "[It's] the Internet equivalent of the Dry Erase boards on a dorm door."

Facebook.com has more than 9.4 millions registered users and receives more than 250 million hits daily, according to the Web site.

Although there are inherent risks concerning Facebook, representatives from Public Safety, Housing and Dining and the Office of Campus Life agree that Facebook also serves as a community builder on campus.

Students from different organizations, classes and schools are able to interact through Facebook, according to Faith Leonard, dean of students.

"It's an interest to learn about what's going on with other people," said Amber Lange, South Side campus area director.

Despite all the apparent negative aspects of Facebook, the concept of a Web site where students can learn about each other is good idea, McNair said.

Although the recognition of the dangers of Facebook is a relatively new concept, AU is taking steps to spread awareness among the student body and faculty, according to Leonard.

"We had an audio conference recently where faculty, staff and students all participated in an audio in service training program to learn how these online communities work and what the risks can be," she said.

The Office of Campus Life believes it is also important to educate the incoming classes about Internet safety at orientation, Leonard said. New Student Orientation programs

will have a section on online safety, according to Leonard.

"We must make sure new students coming into the university are educated about the safety risks and responsible online behaviors that cut across all forms of communication," Leonard said.

McNair suggested the best way for students to keep themselves safe from potential dangers is to watch what kind of information they allow others to view.

Facebook also offers tips on ways students can protect themselves. If a student does not want someone to view their profile they can block that particular person or make their profile visible to friends only, according to Facebook.com.

Lewin-Rowen said students need to be smart about the decisions they make and what they post on the Web.

"Don't be stupid about what you put up because anybody can look at it - assume that they will," Lewin-Rowen said. "Don't put up information that you wouldn't want anybody - strangers, [former boyfriends or girlfriends], best friend's parents - to see or know about"


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