All in the fine print: Keeping your private life private

by Beacon Staff • October 10, 2007

Social networking sites MySpace.com and Facebook.com have fine print that dictates what photos, videos and blogs they can and cannot use for marketing and promotional purposes from individual pages. And often students do not want to wade through the legal jargon before setting up their accounts.

"I read it vaguely," freshman political communication major Holly Langley said. "I went through what it said about the photos."

The policies for the community sites differ in their exact terms of release. MySpace.com states that the creator of the account retains ownership of everything posted, but the site reserves the right to use it on their network.

By posting anything on an account, "You hereby grant to MySpace.com a limited license to use, modify, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and distribute such Content solely on and through the MySpace Services."

In essence every sex tape, blog announcing communist tendencies and photo of the forty-fifth Keystone Light of the night can be spread over the site. According to a MySpace press release, the site gets over 70.5 million visitors a month, all of whom can view some of the posted content.

The clause allowing photos, video clips and blogs to be reproduced is included in the original box that has to be checked off in order to become a member and is required to start an account.

While MySpace constrains the places that photos can be displayed, Facebook is not as discriminate. By posting anything on the site there is the possibility that it will be reproduced onto a national or worldwide network in connection with the Web site or its promotion and they reserve the right to grant sublicenses that would allow other companies to use the content according to the terms. Therefore the scandalous content can be spread wherever the company feels that they need to use it.

In addition, potential employers sometimes troll these sites when considering hiring students, but it is not always a career-killing move.

"In the past, we haven't scrutinized these sites when looking at potential job candidates," said Jennie Stone, Human Resources Generalist and Business Manager for Carat, a marketing firm that has hired Emerson graduates in the past. "Sometimes a person's Facebook or MySpace profile is geared more towards their personal lives as opposed to professional lives and we certainly don't want to lose good candidates because our opinions have been skewed by preconceived notions on a person's behavior."

The fact that employers are not obsessed with the tales of collegiate debauchery does not change the worry that the wrong people, stranger or family member, will see them.

"I have looked over the terms," said freshman theatre education major Courtney Wrenn. "I'm a teacher for high school students [in a summer theater program] and some of my kids friended me. I didn't think about it in high school but after I got to college I realized that I needed to limit my profile."

Both sites allow users to retain the rights and ownership to everything that they post. But the chance that there could be distribution of information is unsettling to some. "

If my info got out it would bother me," said sophomore screenwriting major Joe Siccardi. "They're personal pictures and I want to be comfortable with that."