Nearly everyone in Doheny’s Friends Lecture Hall raised their hand when Marissa Gluck, the panel moderator for “Privacy and Identity in the Age of Facebook,” asked the audience “How many of you have a Facebook account?”
The panelists at the event were Henry Jenkins, a USC professor of journalism, communications and cinematic arts; Whitney Phillips, a University of Oregon Ph.D. student; and Nathan Ruyle, an adjunct faculty member at California Institute of the Arts.
Jenkins said Facebook has become part of our culture and allows people to connect with friends from middle and high school. The information people put on their Facebook can define who they are, the panelists said.
“In the 1960s, people were disposable and there was no reason to build relationships,” Jenkins said.
Social networking forces people to think about how they present themselves to others on the Internet, Jenkins said.
Everything a person searches online remains on the cookies that store information on a person’s computer. Social networking sites can track one’s searches, according to Gluck, so marketers are now creating advertisements geared toward one’s specific interests.
Facebook has become a “marketing utopia” because it is used for a person’s own publicity and functions like a private marketing campaign, Ruyle said.
Some students said they were not aware that marketers and other individuals can collect information based on the websites a person visits.
“I didn’t think about data mining,” said Rihao Gao, a junior majoring in political science. “It’s pretty scary.”
Phillips suggested people try not to post things they don’t want their grandmothers stumbling upon.
“People post things they shouldn’t,” she said. “It’s important to make deliberate choices about what they put online.”
For instance, the “Asians in the Library” video posted on March 11 by Alexandra Wallace, a UCLA student, extended beyond her university and created negative press, according to Jenkins.
“Why would she post that,” Phillips said. “I don’t understand why people choose to do what they do on the Internet.”
Though Facebook has changed its layout and features, from privacy settings to personal information, several times since the site’s introduction in 2004, it remains up to the individual to determine what information they make available to others.
“Facebook has responded to that and you can now change settings to show your status only to certain people,” Phillips said.
Knowing this information, however, does not deter some students from posting personal information on their Facebooks.
“There are so many people here who have pinpointed all the things that are wrong, but we are all still on Facebook and updating our statuses saying ‘I’m at a conference about Facebook,’” said America Hernandez, a freshman majoring in political science.