Be professional or GTFO — despite current law changes, web smarts are a must

During winter break, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder passed a law prohibiting Michigan educational institutions and employers from asking students and employees (both current and prospective) to provide account information — including usernames and passwords — for social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

As millennials, we’re very familiar with how the Internet works.

We grew up with computers and quickly learned how to construct an opinion in 140 characters or less.

We’re fluent in text speak, and some of us even text so often that we’ve acquired an addiction to the technological communication avenue.

That’s not our fault. It’s what we were born into. Our natural way of life … our predisposition — but not everyone realizes just who’s seeing their updates, posts and check-ins.

Though the law, now known as Public Act 478 of 2012, also disciplines any educational institutions that dismiss or refuse to admit a student because they do not provide such personal information, it doesn’t mean you should take advantage of it.

Even though Snyder’s law prohibits someone from asking for a password, that doesn’t mean they still can’t Google you and uncover personal details.

For every private, password-protected piece of data you’ve posted online, several more are publicly available, needing no online credentials to see them.

Every public tweet, shared image, blog post, FourSquare check-in, status update and forum post can be viewed by anyone with a Web connection.

Gov. Snyder’s bill may help hide private messages and posts, but won’t automatically cover the treasure trove of information that’s left to the public eye.

Even those pieces marked “private” or “friends-only” can be spread and saved by those you’ve allowed to see them.

Before posting anything, ask yourself how much you trust your online “friends” to keep your private information to themselves.

Think about every compromising photo of yourself that’s on the Internet, every inflammatory status update you’ve made and every politically incorrect joke you’ve shared.

If one person can see it, everyone else is just a “share” or “forward” away.

This is not meant to warn you against having political beliefs or a private life. Instead, this is meant to caution you about who you share these details with. After all, it’s called a private life for a reason.

We live in an ever-growing world of communication — one where every personal detail of our lives can be shared with others at the push of a button.

With that growth, simultaneously comes the growing importance of privacy. And smarts.

All it takes is for someone you know to take a screen shot of an image, retweet you or share whatever you posted. Once that’s done, it can go anywhere.

And oftentimes it does. So handle yourselves wisely.

The staff editorial is written weekly by members of The Oakland Post’s editorial  board.