Some Rethink Posting of Private Info

By MARTHA IRVINE
The Associated Press
Friday, December 29, 2006; 12:18 PM

CHICAGO -- Walls of an auditorium were covered with thousands of sheets of paper _ printouts from MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and other online sites that were filled with back-stabbing gossip, unflattering images, and details about partying and dating exploits.

Each posting was easily accessed online, no password needed. But seeing them on paper _ and in some cases, being asked to read them aloud _ grabbed the attention of members of the North American Federation of Temple Youth, who gathered earlier this year at a camp outside New York City. That each of the pages mentioned their organization in some way only made it that much more embarrassing.

"They saw themselves and often their friends, completely open, all the way around the room," said Dean Carson, president of the group for Jewish youth and a freshman at George Washington University. "It was very shocking for a lot of people."

It's just one of a growing number of instances in which people who blog and use social-networking and video sites are realizing just how public those spaces can be.

That realization, in turn, is causing many of them to reconsider what they post _ or at the very least, to do more to protect their privacy.

Chuck Sanchez, a 25-year-old Chicagoan, recently deleted references to his public relations firm on his MySpace page after everyone from a job applicant to his fiancee's mother found the page.

"It's simply not worth it," he says. "I want my personal site to be just that: personal."

Rachel Hutson removed some photos from her college sorority days after she took a job as a civilian working for the military. She's also made her Facebook and MySpace profiles private, so that only friends she approves can see it.

"I just don't want certain people to find me," says Hutson, who's 23 and lives in Newport News, Va.

When it comes to posting personal information online, predators and other criminals are, of course, always a concern.

But it goes well beyond that as more adults _ teachers, parents, university admissions counselors and prospective employers _ become savvy about searching online spaces. Sometimes, personal information lives on in the archives of Google and other search engines, no matter how much people try to get rid of it.

"Everyone at this point _ even if it hasn't happened to them _ has heard about someone who's gotten in trouble at school, with a parent, a coach, because of something that's been posted online," says Susannah Stern, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of San Diego who studies young people's online habits.


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© 2006 The Associated Press
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