Yager: “R.S.” incident reveals changing consequences for Internet privacy

Given today’s society, it makes sense that so many use the magical boxes that connect us to our friends and our LOLcats. Although computers are very much in a world of their own, the events that unfold in our world’s computers can have grave results in the real world.

The victims of privacy invasion know best the effects that computers have on people. With recent events involving the invasion of privacy of a 12-year-old Minnesota girl, it is becoming apparent that the rules that apply to the physical realm also apply to the digital realm, and going too far in either can be dangerous.

As college students, we use Facebook often. This habit also applies to younger generations. For a 12-year-old girl referred to only as “R.S.,” Facebook has made her life hell. When R.S. posted adult comments about sex on her public Facebook wall, parents of her Facebook friends took screenshots and alerted school authorities.

Let me stop here for a second. If this occurred in real life and R.S. was talking about sex to her friends and a parent overheard, the parent would have done nothing, scolded the child or consulted her parents. But in this case, the alarm went to a third party: the school.

Upon hearing about the sexual post, school administrators called R.S. and the local deputy to a meeting where the school administrators intimidated R.S. into giving them her Facebook login credentials. During the process, R.S. was quoted as sobbing throughout the interrogation.

Her mother was notified of the incident after it occurred. Thankfully, there is a criminal investigation underway against the school officials and the American Civil Liberties Union is representing R.S. and her family against the school district.

But how was this allowed to happen? This was a failure on the part of many people. First and foremost, it was a failure of the girl’s parents. It was the responsibility of R.S.’s parents to manage her Internet presence. Second, it’s a failure of the offended parent in alerting the wrong people of R.S.’s behavior. Why would you notify a school instead of the child’s parents? Lastly, it was a failure of the school administrators to act in a responsible manner. They endangered the welfare of a child and gained access to controlled information.

The events that unfolded with R.S. were the worst-case scenario; a young girl was interrogated and forced to disclose personal information at the whim of an adult. The administrators involved should be fired and the child should be compensated.

In the grand scheme of things, this occurrence shows something even more important; it shows that information is flowing faster than ever and if you do something wrong, the information will get out. People will know and share the unjust actions of others and what may have gone unnoticed in the past will be brought onto the public stage. If you do something against the ethics of our society, it will get out.