Facebook or mugshot?

Amanda Tatro now understands what “private public information” means.

In December, just one week before finals, University of Minnesota mortuary science student Amanda Tatro was escorted off campus by University police. She had been suspended for threats made on her Facebook page, where she described a desire âÄúto stab a certain someone in the throat.âÄù Social networking sites faithfully display the information posted by their users. To their detriment, many users assume a greater degree of privacy on the Web than actually exists. In TatroâÄôs case, what friends may consider a flippant (if morbid) joke instead raised faculty concerns about safety and triggered the University to âÄúerr on the side of caution.âÄù With FacebookâÄôs password login, thereâÄôs no questioning who the words belong to, only what they truly represent and who gets to make that decision. We are fast losing the ability to control our own words; what seems personally proprietary is becoming public property. While University spokesman Dan Wolter assured us that âÄúwe donâÄôt have a Facebook police,âÄù itâÄôs clear we donâÄôt need one. In a culture of online voyeurism and confession, our own words literally speak for themselves, and often against their authors. Wolter also explained that photographs posted on Facebook, such as those featuring underage students boozing in the dorms, âÄúhave informed proceedings in the past.âÄù The University owes students a more respectful balance between their privacy and security, especially where students are operating under an expectation of privacy; TatroâÄôs comments were meant for her friends. Students, for their part, must be conscious of the increasingly blurry line between public and private behavior.