Now nothing is private except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull


How many of you use Facebook regularly? How many of you post pictures, write comments, like friends’ posts or perhaps moan a bit about work or family life, without a second thought? Quite a few of you I’m sure and, like me, most of you have probably grappled with Facebook’s ever-changing privacy settings and harnessed  them as best you can to restrict access and so assert some level of privacy.  Well I’m sorry to tell you that an incident at my school this week proved that it’s all for naught.

A colleague was asked by the school I work for to delete something from their Facebook Timeline because a student had seen it and complained about what was written. What was more concerning is that the school automatically sided with the child and didn’t ask any questions, such as: how did the child access the page given that he wasn’t a ‘friend’ of the teacher’s? My colleague does not ‘friend’ young students, for obvious reasons. Also, how did the student access the page when the Facebook page was private, not public, with all settings ‘friends only’? And finally why, given that the child is 12 years old, was he looking at the  teacher’s Facebook page in the first place?  As you can imagine, my colleague was furious at the school and their failure to understand the argument that Facebook posts are meant to be private and they had no right to dictate what could and couldn’t be written by an adult during their free time.

I was appalled by my school’s actions but it got me thinking? How many other employers would cite private posts as a reason to criticize or pressure someone in the work environment? According to an article in the Daily Mail last year, ‘By 2015, 60% of employers will monitor their workers’ Facebook pages’. It said:

Most employers will use their monitoring to  prevent security breaches – but simply having the technology at their disposal  will be a huge temptation to managers who want to know more about their staff.


Earlier this year, Facebook  said it has ‘seen a distressing increase in reports of employers or others  seeking to gain  inappropriate access to people’s Facebook profiles or private  information.’

I also found this YouTube video which highlights the current dangers we all face if employer’s persist in this intrusive behavior:

So, what started out as a ‘social’ network to share thoughts and views with friends has been hijacked as a tool to root out whatever is deemed inappropriate or ‘anti-social’.  And it’s not only adults that are at risk, students are too.  According to this article, a Southern California school district has paid a company to monitor the public posts students make on social media outlets:

[…] The district is paying $40,500 to Geo Listening, and in exchange, the company’s computers scour public posts by students on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blogs and other sites. Analysts are alerted to terms that suggest suicidal thoughts, bullying, vandalism and even the use of obscenities, among other things. When they find posts they think should spur an intervention or anything that violates schools’ student codes of conduct, the company alerts the campus.

One student commented:

“We all know social media is not a private place, not really a safe place,” said Young Cho, 16, a junior at Hoover High. “But it’s not the same as being in school. It’s students’ expression of their own thoughts and feelings to their friends. For the school to intrude in that area — I understand they can do it, but I don’t think it’s right.”

Whilst anything that prevents cyber-bullying is a good thing, I think monitoring private posts is definitely a step too far. As for tracking ‘the use of obscenities’, well that smacks of a medieval witch-hunt to me. On a final note, I hope the company has a lot of server storage, as a lot of the  teenagers I teach  just love using obscenities!

Do you have any experiences of employer intrusion?  Do you think it’s a good thing to monitor students’ actions in this way?

Note. The title of this post is based on a quote from George Orwell’s 1984:  “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull. ”

Categories: Just Plain Blog

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4 replies

  1. I believe this danger to privacy that Facebook (and any other forms of social media) now brings is not just an effect of the technological advancements that made the world a lot smaller than it was decades ago. Rather, it is also the cause – or the catalyst. The world being small led to easier communications with almost everyone in the world, even strangers. This, in turn, fueled people’s ‘craving for attention’. And it goes on.

    But then, there are always exceptions. I’m proud to be one of those who still think things through when posting stuff. I even imposed a relatively low limit to my friends list, and made restrictions to my privacy settings. The only loopholes left are probably hackers and my ‘friends.’

    Though I still don’t understand why employers have to intrude on their employees’ private lives. Can’t they figure out the distinction between personal life and professional life?

    Anyway, nice post.

    • Thanks for visiting. I agree that making the world a smaller place hasn’t worked out in some areas. I too have restricted my site access and frankly I am thinking of closing it down.

  2. I love the post. It’s unfortunate that something as convenient and useful as Facebook has now become a danger to our privacy. Will there ever be anything that humans don’t ruin?

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