A college student’s thoughts about Internet privacy, reputation
February 2nd, 2009

“Detag” is a term that has recently entered the vocabulary, and which implies a whole world of concerns about privacy literacy — what people know and don’t know about possible repercussions from casual revelations on MySpace, Facebook, or other sites. I remember the students in my class who were among the first generation of students to discover that Facebook party pictures could cost them a job. But that was a few years ago — ancient history to today’s students. A student in my Digital Journalism class at Stanford wrote this thoughtful blog post, “The Permanent Detag,” which she agreed to share with the world. Worth reading.
Jon Favreau in a party mood

For anyone not tapped into political schaudenfraude, the charmer on the left molesting the cardboard cutout of the Secretary of State is Obama’s 27-year-old wunderkind speechwriter, Jon Favreau (not to be confused with the writer and star of the excellent 90s film Swingers and director of last year’s Iron Man. That Jon Favreau is truly an auteur of our time.) According to this Washington Post account of the whole headslapping incident, this picture made a brief but splashy appearance on Facebook for a few hours in December before it was swiftly removed, but just not swiftly enough to avoid being picked up by the “blog-o-sphere” (what a terrible word, I will never use it again) and the MSM alike.

Favreau got off pretty easy–he had to privately apologize to Senator Clinton, but he still picked up the plum Director of Speechwriting job, which is like someone giving you a gift certificate to Crate & Barrel after you windmill-arm your way down the glassware aisle. I think that’s a little silly, too, but what I’m more interested in is the digital world that made this kind of faux pas possible. First, let’s dispense with the idea that this is the first time that someone working on a political campaign has made an off-color joke or gesture. Lucky Favreau just happened to have it caught on camera. But the thing is, I think it’s his fault. Let’s be clear here; whoever posted the picture on Facebook is a serious bonehead, but Favreau might be even worse. Anyone who’s ever applied for jobs or internships in the Facebook era knows you only have so much control over what happens to the pictures residing on other peoples’ cameras. If they choose to post the pictures online, you might have the option to “detag” (remove your name from being associated with the image) but that’s about it. Facebook’s user help database has this to say about options a user has at his or her disposal when removing photos:

1. Simply view the photo and click the “remove tag” link next to your name. It will no longer be linked to your profile.
2. Remember that you can only tag your friends. If you are having problems with someone constantly tagging you in embarrassing photos, just remove them as a friend (from the Friends page).
3. If you don’t want the photo to be shown at all, please talk to the person who posted it. They should be respectful enough to remove unwanted photos. Unfortunately, Facebook CANNOT make people remove photos that do not violate our Terms of Use.

Once pictures are posted on Facebook, they’re there to stay.


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