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More on MySpace

A response to readers' questions and comments

by Rita Ayers
November 28, 2007

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More on MySpace
Wow! I had no idea my last article would strike a chord with so many people. I received so many comments about MySpace is not MY Space that I felt I should explain further.
Here are just a few questions I received:
Q. How can you possibly know that your daughter's robbery was definitely caused by her postings on Facebook?
A. Well, obviously, I can't know anything for certain. However, the facts are these: she had not lived in this particular apartment or even her new city for any length of time and had virtually no visitors outside her immediately family and one close friend. None of us took the computer. 
The person who did take the computer knew it was there – they knew which door it was behind and exactly where in the apartment it was (as her posted photographs provided that information). Nothing else was disturbed except the iPod connected to the computer, which was also taken. That was probably just a bonus and easier grabbed than left because it was connected to the computer by a cable. We feel the computer was a targeted item, wanted either for one's own personal use, or for immediate auction on eBay. This particular computer had been on the market less than six weeks when it disappeared – a very desirable model at this writing.
Brooke's apartment was the only one touched out of hundreds; the maintenance men who repaired her door said they had no knowledge of any previous break-ins during their entire tenure with the complex. 
There are just too many factors pointing in the direction of the Internet information for me to believe anything else.
Q. My niece assures me that all of her profiles are marked private and no one can see anything. I sent your article to her and she still doesn't believe it. What other information can you provide to help me convince her to remove some of her personal details?
A. MySpace and Facebook, in a way, remind me of the HIV virus. Sleeping with one person means that you are, in effect, sleeping with everyone they ever slept with – and then, on top of that, everyone THEY ever slept with.
What do I mean by this? If you have one friend who has eight friends, then you have eight friends. You may think your profile is private; how can you be sure it really is when any of those eight people may view your profile when visiting your ONE friend?
Additionally, you may want to warn your niece of this simple fact:  There are many ways for unscrupulous people to gain access to her profile. There will always be the computer hackers, in it for the fun of breaking through firewalls and getting around all security measures. If she's ever signed on to her account at any computer other than her own, that computer may have been logging every single keystroke she entered – thus giving the owner of the computer her user id and password.
As a computer lab teacher, I have the capability of tracking everything students do on the thirty student computers in my classroom.  Software to do this is free for the downloading.  Good software is not free, but is relatively inexpensive when you consider the monetary gains to be had by stealing someone's personal data.
Q. I have a Facebook account, primarily for the purpose of easily sharing digital photos with family and friends. What's so bad about that?
Nothing at all – if you don't mind having your mug "tagged" without your permission. Facebook allows users to tag people by name; a little box appears around each tagged face when your cursor wanders over it and you can identify exactly which name belongs to which person.  Also, your name can be searched upon and easily found. 
Secondly, you may find a photo of yourself that you would prefer not to have been posted. You have no control over that.  You can always untag it, of course, but the damage will have already been done. 
If something is on the Internet for one second, it is always on the Internet. In fact, there are sites that take daily snapshots of websites and keep them in a repository. One such place is called the Wayback Machine. Visit that area, put in a url, and can you can see old versions of that website. Even Google provides "cached" versions of websites. Do a Google search and you'll see what I mean. The cached version is provided at the bottom of each hit; it is no longer the active edition of the website, but you can still see it as it was.
Even after something is so old that there really are no remaining versions of it "live" - how can you be certain that someone didn't save the info for later?
I wrote the article for two reasons, and I repeat them here:
1) We already have far too many invasions into our personal information as it is. How many times a week do you put your ATM code into a machine with various individuals standing around behind you? Why make yourself vulnerable to even more people – virtually – than is absolutely necessary? 
The new concept I pointed out was that now, not only do we need to worry about identity theft and sexual predators – we must also worry about real robbers gaining so much information that we make ourselves easy targets.
2) Almost everyone who emailed, called, or discussed the previous article with me personally, missed my final point. The Internet is being used as a substitute for real interaction. When a person has a birthday, they may get 500 "Happy Birthday" Facebook greetings from as many people. How many of those people pick up the phone and call a personal message – take the honoree out for dinner – send a card or flowers – really care one bit?
I'd rather get two phone calls from people who love me, myself. People who knew it was my birthday all by themselves instead of getting an electronic reminder…

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Mitchell from Huntsville, AL writes:
November 28, 2007
I'm extremely pleased to see that your article has made people think about the negative aspects of these social communities. As a user of both myspace and facebook, I never fully realized the potentially evil uses until I witnessed it. I'm sure most people haven't either.

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