Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beware Facebook "Friends"

I spend about a half-hour a day on Facebook, partly because a lot of my friends are “newsies” like me, and they post links to interesting news articles. Such was the case last week, when a Facebook friend from Appleton, who was also a newsroom colleague of mine years ago, posted a link to a story in the LaCrosse Tribune.

LaCrosse cops are “friending” UW-LaCrosse students, going through the photos they’ve posted online, and then busting them for underage drinking, based on the photos. And the cops are going about it in a very sneaky way.

Why would a 19-year-old college boy/man agree to a Facebook friend request from a cop? Because the male cop not only used a female name, but also used the photo of an attractive young woman as his “profile picture”.

LaCrosse cop Al Iverson freely admits his deception. He used the identity ruse to become Facebook friends with 19-year-old UW-L student Adam Bauer, went through Bauer’s photos, saw one with Bauer holding a beer, and then ticketed him for underage drinking.

Officer Iverson did the same thing to several other UW-L students. The arrest report Iverson wrote up claims Bauer admitted to underage drinking, but Bauer denies it. However, he pleaded no contest to the charge and will pay a fine of $227. The other students similarly caught are doing the same thing. Plead it, pay it, grumble, move on.

Cops say social networking sites like Facebook are fair game, because posting photos of drink-fests glorifies alcohol consumption and binge drinking. Cops also use social networking sites to try and catch sexual predators.

I joined Facebook a year ago, after getting an invitation from a personal and professional friend of long-standing who’s one of the best reporters on the staff at the Wisconsin State Journal. A few days later, my wife joined and set up her own Facebook account, after crawling around on my account and being amazed at how many folks our age had a Facebook page.

We soon both got “friend invitations” from our son and daughter, who’d been on Facebook for years, since their undergrad days at the UW. We accepted - and then quickly “un-friended” our own children! TOO MUCH INFORMATION.

My wife and I had a brief chat about it, then talked to the “kids” (they’re both in their mid-20’s now) about how there are many aspects of their private life that we prefer NOT to know about.

My wife, in her motherly fashion, spoke with both of them about the kind of status updates and photos they post. The standard “nothing on the internet is private” speech. I think it’s safe to say we have a very, very different concept about “privacy” than they do. It’s one of those things parents do, that falls on deaf ears, but….you’re parents for life, and ya gotta do it.

And that’s part of the “problem”. Different standards. The college students ticketed for underage drinking in LaCrosse seemed amazed and indignant that the cops would use their PUBLIC internet postings to bust them.

Are my wife and I Facebook friends? You bet. We got married because we were best friends for years, and we have no secrets. We’re parents, and friends, to our children…but real friends, not just Facebook friends.

There ARE some things better not known.

1 comment:

  1. As the Brits say, too clever by half. Methinks officer Iverson is setting himself up for an embarrassing (or maybe worse) fall. Stupid behavior does not necessarily imply stupid kids. He's gonna get himself punked one of these days and end up gassing the cars at 400 La Crosse Street.