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Anything You Say on Facebook Could End Up on the Front Page of the NYT

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If you’re in the under-thirty crowd, you’re probably a member of Facebook. Like most young adults, you have probably chronicled every moment of your life since you joined the social networking site—including pictures from your first college party as well as seemingly insignificant details such as listing your favorite foods. Consequently, older adults have dismissingly deemed the under-thirty crowd the “tell-all generation”. But with insurance companies and employers increasingly utilizing Facebook to unearth information about potential employees or policy holders, members of the “tell-all generation” are starting to think twice about what they on their pages for the world to see.

While social networking sites are still extremely popular, a survey released last week by the University of California, Berkeley found that more than half of the 1,000 young adults questioned are more concerned about their on-line privacy than young adults were five years ago. In fact, the survey also discovered that younger Facebook users are more diligent about protecting their digital image including deleting unwanted comments and limiting personal information about themselves.

In the aftermath of a few Facebook privacy snafus, it’s no wonder that young people are thinking twice about what they post on the Internet. Indeed, mistrust of social networking sites is becoming pervasive: in the same University of California, Berkeley survey, 88% of young adults surveyed thought there should be a law that requires websites to delete stored information and 62% said that they wanted a law that gave people the right to know everything the website knows about them. While Eliot Schrage, the overseer of Facebook’s global communications and public policy strategy, argues that the social networking site is glad to see younger people thinking harder about what they put online, it’s also in Facebook’s best interests for users to post as much information as possible. Specifically, the more personal information Facebook collects, the more valuable the site is to advertisers, who can mine the website for personal information to target their ads to particular users. The translation? Facebook makes more money from companies willing to pay for valuable information about potential consumers.