Oxford University Fines Students For Facebook 'Flour' Photos - InformationWeek

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7/17/2007
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Oxford University Fines Students For Facebook 'Flour' Photos

One of the most prestigious U.K. universities has begun to scan the social networking sites seeking snapshots and other evidence of misbehavior that qualifies for formal disciplinary action.

Social networking site users have to worry about more than just potential employers digging up their dirt online now.

One of the most prestigious U.K. universities has begun to scan the social networking sites seeking snapshots and other evidence of misbehavior that qualifies for formal disciplinary action. Students at Oxford University are outraged that school leaders are scanning Facebook and disciplining students based on what they find there.

The Oxford University Student Union put out a statement Monday responding to the news that proctors are scouring social networking sites for evidence of post-exam partying. The statement outlines steps to restrict faculty, staff, and outsiders from viewing students' profiles. It also suggests that students set photos and videos "tagged" of them to "Only My Friends," while including the warning that those steps still don't guarantee complete privacy. Finally, it urges students who have been contacted by proctors to notify the student organization.

"While the Student Union does not condone unruly, violent, or disorderly behaviour, we believe that the privacy of our members should be protected and that disciplinary procedures at all levels within the University should be fair and transparent," the Student Union said.

The Times Online reports that Oxford University has fined students after seeing photographs of them partying after exams. St. Hugh's College leveled a disorderly conduct charge against a student, who thought she had restricted public access to her photographs, the newspaper reported.

The photographs creating the stir reportedly depict students dousing each other with alcoholic beverages and food, similar to sports teams' victory celebrations in the United States -- only at Oxford, students seem to enjoy covering each other with flour, in addition to champagne. Oxford sees that type of behavior as fine-worthy and is attempting to collect fees from offending students. University officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

Such digital dirt also has derailed job seekers in the United States. ExecuNet reported last year that more than one in three employers said they eliminated a job candidate because of digital content they found objectionable. The deciding content frequently came from entering a candidate's name into a search engine, but at least one person reported that recruiters hired people to snoop through Facebook.

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