Suspensions show privacy losses

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

The night that the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl is not likely to be one that many Pittsburgh students forget. Not only was the occasion momentous, but the celebration, namely the rioting, that occurred afterward had people and papers alike buzzing for weeks.

You’ve heard the stories. Couches were burnt and bus stops vanished — the list of mob madness goes on. Still, it’s old news. It was a crazy night, and the results are visible, but it’s not as exciting as it initially was. At least we have the memories.

Two suspended students at Pitt and a third facing the same punishment for their participation in the night’s rioting might wish that’s all we had.

According to The Pitt News, Pitt’s Division of Student Affairs used Facebook, YouTube, and other sites “as jumping points for investigations.” While it states that arrests haven’t been made solely on evidence from Facebook, etc., the sentiment is nonetheless disconcerting.

Information put on the Internet has always been out of our control. Whether the students who were investigated in those photos posted them themselves or were tagged by their friends doesn’t matter: They were identified, and that identification was used to hold them responsible for their actions.

You’ve heard this countless times before: be careful of what you post online. Are University of Pittsburgh officials or police to blame for being able to effectively use computers? No. Is it an invasion of privacy to look into what students are posting? No. Information is free.

Gone are the days when we can commit damnatio memoriae. We have to assume that once we’ve posted something on the Internet, it’s going to stick around long after the profiles have been deleted. Sound paranoid? Sure. But it gives us a clearer picture of reality than assuming that we can keep our online musings private.

Information is traveling faster than ever, and privacy is becoming something that you have to seek out rather than lapse into. Even holing up in a cave somewhere, while extreme, holds little charm anymore: with Google Maps, your refuge is just a few clicks away.

This is the loss of privacy on a much larger scale, signifying a drastic change in the way we live our lives. Cell phones allow us to be reached at a moment’s notice. And as we have seen above, revelry gone riotous is documented not long after to online friends and acquaintances.

The suspension of the two Pitt students is not an invasion of privacy, but rather an invasion of high-speed information into our lives. We were not always bombarded with information or constantly pestered for updates over Internet sites like Facebook. Technological advances are a wonderful thing, but we must also be aware of how much it impacts our lives.

While we can chose not to post certain information online, how much of our lives can we truly call private any more? With every new advance in technology that occurs, the concept of anything being “private” is eroding. It is slowly vanishing, but it is vanishing nonetheless.