The Professional Facebook Stalkers: Your Online Profile Made Public

Whether it is getting into college or getting a job, both are very anxious prospects for aspiring students. As if the load was not overwhelming enough on its own, now students have to add their Facebook to this list, asking themselves the question: Is my Facebook profile secure?

Facebook has evolved into a phenomenon that not only encompasses a students’ social life but also their professional life. But with this comes the issue of privacy. Students now fear that they are vulnerable to a new form of Facebook stalking: The professional one.

Companies and colleges have now become aware of  the popularity of Facebook. Employers and college admissions officers have begun adding Facebook to their standard security check procedures. They use Facebook to find out more about the individuals’ personal qualities that cannot be communicated via an application or interview and use this additional information to screen and filter out “undesirable” candidates. Incriminating factors could include promiscuous photos or conversations.

“I have two friends who changed their names,” said Caroline Dimitian, a second-year at UC Irvine. “One  changed her name because she doesn’t want employers to find her on Facebook and use her profile against her. Another one I know is this girl that went to Loyola Marymount University. Because it’s a small, private school and the professors know everybody, she changed her name so they could not find her Facebook.”

The trend of Facebook stalking has always plagued website users, especially those who forget (or simply do not know how) to turn on their privacy settings. Since Facebook makes it easy for anyone with an account to be searched without severe privacy settings, it makes stalking very easy for the employer.

According to Araceli Rossi, a career counselor at the UCI Career Center, prospective employees should keep in mind how potential employers will view them.

“It comes down to how you want to brand yourself,” Rossi said. “What kind of message do you want to send out? People make their own notion as to who you are. They form opinions. These could be wrong, but it still affects the employer.”

Employers have been known to use Google to find information on potential recruits. This method can sometimes refer them back to Facebook or can link them to other social websites such as MySpace or Twitter, all of which are free material for them to utilize.

“If employers Google your name and can access your Facebook then you are open to criticism. Employers are looking for professionalism. They don’t want to be judgmental on one hand, but if there is something blatantly bad, it can cause trouble,” Rossi said.

While many students have become paranoid because of this, others feel they have no need to be troubled if they are careful about what they post on their profiles.

For fourth-year cognitive science major Bryan Katz, being aware of the public nature of the Internet will give users nothing to worry about.

“If you’re putting something online, it’s public stuff” Katz said, “Facebook is a social networking website, not an e-mail. If you put up pictures, you should expect someone to see them.”

Facebook privacy is not a difficult task to ensure and involves changing personal settings to raise the privacy level of one’s profile.   In order to access restricted profiles, the user has to accept the other party’s friend request. However, in the business world, this might not be safe enough. Therefore, extra prudence might be necessary, from hiding pictures and information to all but a select number of friends, or even deleting and taking them off entirely.

“It doesn’t matter to me if they look at my Facebook,” Katz said. “I have nothing to hide.”