By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

I’m with Fred

Jesse Noyes reports in the Boston Herald today that the folks at Facebook are upset with the media for using the social-network service to track down interview subjects in the Virginia Tech story. A Facebook spokeswoman is quoted as saying, “We see this as a violation of user privacy.” Really? Good thing Ma Bell didn’t try to take our phone books away back in the 1970s and ’80s because we were violating people’s privacy by, you know, calling them up.

I’m with Boston University journalism professor Fred Bayles, who tells Noyes that journalists are going to use any method they can to contact people. Indeed, I tell my students that it’s perfectly ethical to use Facebook, listservs and Usenet (most easily accessed through Google Groups) for exactly that purpose as long as they make it clear that they’re reporters working on a story.

I am more sympathetic to Facebook’s objection that the media shouldn’t reproduce text and images from people’s online profiles without permission — although, again, Facebook, MySpace and the like aren’t exactly private forums.

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  1. Zach

    Facebook is a public forum by its own choosing; it used to be semi-private, allowing only people from the same college to see each other’s profiles. It wanted to cash out, however, so it removed that barrier.

  2. man who's a privacy fan

    Yet another hard lesson America’s youth are learning about privacy and why it shouldn’t be treated as cavalierly as many do.

  3. TC

    If I post a photo or write something on MySpace or Facebook- and maybe this applies more to photos than to text given the ‘fair use’ exemption- doesn’t the newspaper/tv station/whatever need my permission to use that photo? Last I checked the MySpace terms of service, I retained copyright in any content I posted, and under the terms MySpace can’t sell or distribute my content outside of using it within the MySpace application. If NBC or whomever nicks my photos of MySpace, and I took the photo, then they’re nicking my copyrighted material. I gave MySpace permission to use it, not NBC. Am I off base with this line of reasoning?

  4. Anonymous

    kudos to you for agreeing with fred bayles!!!very few people usually do.

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