Check out the infographic we've linked on the right-hand side of the page. Along with other fascinating facts, you'll learn that a staggering 96% of college students use Facebook. So we know that you don't need suggestions or advice for using it, but we do want to draw your attention to one important issue.
Facebook wants your data. Really, really badly. User data represents a potential goldmine for Facebook. Its biggest public relations fiascos are all about privacy issues and how confusing the privacy settings are. The more open, public, and interconnected users accounts are, the more data Facebook can extract.
So? Well, you can make privacy decisions about your own account, but it's out of your hands when you need to use someone else's page, such as an organization that uses Facebook as its sole web presence. Facebook's strength and fundamental purpose is to interconnect people - users know that going in. But there are a number of ways Facebook interconnects information that are hard to shut down; for example, the "like" buttons track information about you when you click them. The cost of using information found on Facebook is that in the information Facebook gathers about you. Again, so?
The "so" is that Facebook has and will change the rules about what it's doing. Most companies reserve the right to do this in the fine print of their privacy policies, but they're also more upfront about changes than Facebook has been. In other words, Facebook has a bad reputation from a privacy ethics standpoint. The current flap is about how it's using its facial recognition software. The previous uproar was about showing phone number listings. Next year, who knows?
The point here isn't to stop using Facebook. But just as you need to be aware of the issues surrounding Google, you need to consider the big picture of what it means to use social media tools. Do you ever buy one brand over another in order to be socially conscious and communicate your values? You may want to be similarly thoughtful in your use of social media resources such as Facebook. And you want to keep careful track of your own account and privacy settings to make sure they stay where you want them.
Issues of ethics matter in academia. You need to be aware of ethical issues in how you use information resources. These issues should also factor into your evaluation of what you find and use online.
A little back and forth about the social value of Facebook. Each video is just over 6 minutes.