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September 24th, 2009
An Idle Word: A Facebook cautionary tale

An Idle Word: A column
by BILL CUNNINGHAM

I’ll wager that if you’re one of whose who are reading this or other news media online, you’re either a member of and have been invited to join Facebook, the popular social networking site. I’ve been a member since someone sent me an invitation and joined to show that I’m not a Luddite although I’ve rarely used it until recently.

My profile is pretty basic, responding to the basic information requested such as hometown, eon of birth, religion, interests, favorite books and movies, favorite quotes, etc.

I’m still a bit paranoid about the openness of information on the worldwide net and limit my e-mailing to matters I wouldn’t want read back to me someday (which gives me a leg up on such notables as former Washington power broker Jack Abramoff whose e-boastings about influence peddling helped earn him a nice prison sentence).

I therefore found my interest piqued by an e-mail I received this week from the American Civil Liberties Union about the Facebook quizzes. You know the ones—“What hairstyle fits you the best?” (I just feel fortunate to a have a full head of hair) or “What decade fits you the best?” (The Sixties of course).

The e-mail carried a link to questionnaire about the privacy guaranteed you when you respond to such quizzes. You can access the questionnaire and take it at apps.facebook.com/aclunc_privacy_quiz.

SPOILER ALERT: Since this is an ACLU questionnaire, the answer is that such quizzes open the door to access on both your and your friends’ personal profiles—political affiliation, religion, sexual orientation etc. and links to an online petition to Facebook for additional security measures.

I’m not particularly worried about access to my profile, as it will reveal little of my personal eccentricities that regular readers can’t find out by reading “Idle Word.” My photo page merely consists of a few shots taken with the built in camera on my Mac since I got tired of looking at the silhouette on my Facebook page

Actually, the questionnaire drove me to expand my rather limited list of Facebook correspondents and can assure them that there’s little to worry about from open access to their profiles either

A potential spy/spammer (as if you didn’t get enough already) could learn that Jayme Blascke is a science fiction fanatic or that Rebecca Bell-Metereau is running for the State Board of Education (Vote for her—she doesn’t believe that if you sail too far you’ll fall of the edge off the earth unlike some on the board) or that Diana Finlay Hendricks—well you can learn a lot about her and Mark and the extended Finlay- Hendricks clans.

I’m not so sure about some of the younger Facebook fanatics however such as the recent city council hopeful whose photo page proudly displayed a picture of him passed out or the Gold Medal Olympian whose Facebook photo depicted him taking a large bong hit and led to the cessation of lucrative endorsement deals.

Being a dedicated Godfather, I added my own Goddaughter to my friends’ list and breathed a sigh of relief to find nothing incriminating in either her profile or photo page– nice photo on her homepage of a perky little blonde Texas State coed on one of her biology field trips, expressions of her enthusiasm for “House” and “The Daily Show,” a list a of bands I’ve never heard of, lots of photos with friends and playing with her nephew. And I’m sure it will remain so now that she knows the Godfather is watching.

Which reminds me, what is Kim Porterfield doing in that goofy spacesuit?

In my research, I have developed an affinity with Facebook—as you can probably tell—so I’ve got to go now as I just received an e-mail that Milton Burton, Tyler, Texas’ answer to Jim Thompson, has posted a notice about his next book on my wall.

See you online.

– 30-

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5 thoughts on “An Idle Word: A Facebook cautionary tale

  1. An answer to Jim Thompson? Hhhmm. Really like Joe Lansdale myself, not the Hap & Leonard as much as the short stories, and if you have not read A Fine Dark Line, your life is incomplete. Facebook, I prefer a fountain pen. Roy Buchanan, Rory Gallagher, Tinariwin kind of weekend coming up.

  2. My favorite part is the online soap opera-flair, the ongoing “Days of Our Lives” can be followed through threads on “friends” pages as well. (Kim got a new case for her iPhone; Miguel has two tickets for the Rattler skybox; Jayme has entered his mead at the Comal County Fair; Mary Mikel is a lot like Vito Corleone…)
    It’s like an online morning stop at the coffee shop.
    So Bill, “What’s on your mind?”

  3. Sometimes it’s a good thing that memories fade… However it’s a sure-fire bet that if it’s printed and/or “on the internet” that it becomes “fact” outlasting efforts to defend or correct what ever was posted in the first place.

    In this case maybe “durable” should be “Dura-Bull” as so much of what’s posted is lacking or on the other end of the spectrum: over-worked. Especially when someone attempts to portray another’s intent, even if it’s by an otherwise objective and innocent observer.

    As always, “Congressman”, I enjoy your writing. Please keep it up, and a good weekend to all!

    PRB

  4. Rebecca Bell-Metereau for Texas State Board of Education District 5:

    I’ve taught at Texas State University for 28 years, and our two daughters attended public school in San Marcos, in the center of the district. In talking with students, parents, educators, and community leaders, it’s clear what we need to fix a broken State Board of Education: 1) community, 2) economy, 3) respect.

    1. The first concept of community is a theme I’ve heard from everyone. We must put students, teachers, and the local community back at the center of education. The State Board of Education has been micromanaging school curriculum for almost 20 years. Results have been disastrous, putting us in 51st place in high school graduation rates in the US. Teachers must guide this process, in collaboration with local communities.

    2. We must also connect education to the economy and prepare students for higher education and the world of work with a 21st century education. We need a Texas State Board of Education that makes public schools an engine of the economy, coordinated with higher education and the real world of work and local communities, guided by educators, not business interests or political battles.

    3. Finally, respect is an essential value for all people. My opponent ignores this fundamental practice, and the board’s oversight process is therefore broken. His comments about giving a “spanking” to people testifying before the language curriculum review committee shows his utter disrespect for the women and men working hard to improve our educational system. We should not have that kind of talk in the future Board of Education. We must restore a reasoned, civil, deliberative process that coordinates legislative bodies, public schools, universities, and the world of work. Let’s stop the nonsense now!
    NOTE: Please visit my website at voterebecca.com for more information about my background and my campaign.

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