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Monthly Archives: July 2014

Affirmative action

University Of Texas Can Continue Affirmative Action, Court Rules

“To deny UT Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience,” Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote for a split panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, had been closely watched because it has already reached the Supreme Court. Last year, the court surprised many observers by failing to issue a sweeping decision on affirmative action.

Instead, the court sent the case back to the 5th Circuit for further fact-finding, saying the lower court should use “strict scrutiny,” the toughest form of review a court can apply to government actions, instead of deferring to the university’s judgment in the matter.

The Supreme Court wanted a determination whether the use of race as part of the admission program was necessary and had been drawn as narrowly as possible.

Under Texas law, 75 percent of the university students are admitted under what is known as the Top Ten Percent Plan. If a student graduates in the top 10 percent of her high school class, she is admitted in Austin.

Because many high schools are in dominated by one race or another, this has ensured that the University of Texas admits a high percentage of students who are Hispanic or African American — but their numbers still fall far short of their share of the overall population of the state, in which minorities make up a majority.

The appellate court said it was okay for the university to use race as a factor beyond the 10 percent plan. Higginbotham wrote that the judges were “persuaded by UT Austin from this record of its necessary use of race in a holistic process and the want of workable alternatives that would not require even greater use of race, faithful to the content given to it by the Supreme Court.”

But Emilio Garza, who was the dissenting judge in the 2-1 decision, argued that the university did not offer “sufficient evidence that would prove that its admissions program is narrowly tailored to obtain the educational benefits of diversy.”

Lawyers challenging the university’s affirmative action plan have already pledged to appeal. Which means the Supreme Court could well rule on the case — and on affirmative action more broadly — once again.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled that a Michigan ballot initiative to ban racial preferences in college admissions is constitutional, overturning a lower court decision in that case.

Re-post from:

One year later

The George Zimmerman Trial, One Year Later

George Zimmerman’s trial for killing Trayvon Martin became a flashpoint for raucous, heated debates — conversations about racial profiling, gun laws and the criminal justice system. Zimmerman’s acquittal was seen by many as an outrage, but any outcome would have been unsatisfying for many people, since criminal trials are horrible proxies for the resolutions of big, thorny social issues.

This past Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of Zimmerman’s acquittal, and we didn’t think the occasion should go unremarked upon. The New York Daily News has an update on what’s happened to the major players surrounding the case in the year since the trial. But what has happened to some of the other big issues raised by the trial?

On Latinos And Whiteness

During the trial, a lot of hay was made over Zimmerman’s ethnicity — many folks argued that the confrontation wasn’t one between a white guy and a black teenager because Zimmerman wasn’t white, but Latino. In some circles, the idea that someone could be both Latino and white was treated as a media concoction meant to slide the Trayvon Martin shooting into a familiar black-white template for racial grievance.

George Zimmerman's trial became the locus of heated debate about racial profiling, gun laws and the criminal justice system.

George Zimmerman’s trial became the locus of heated debate about racial profiling, gun laws and the criminal justice system.


Interestingly, there’s been quite a bit written about Latinos and whiteness since, although it’s been mostly unrelated to the Zimmerman trial. Nate Cohn of the New York Timessparked a lively debate after he wrote a piece about preliminary census data finding that a large number of Latinos had changed their racial identities on the Census between 2000 and 2010. Cohn’s takeaway: Latinos were assimilating into whiteness much in the same way immigrant populations did in the early 20th century. Cohn wondered what this might augur for the much-discussed browning of America in which whites are set to be outnumbered by people of color.

The reality is a little bit more complicated, as we’ve learned. I spoke to some of the census researchers who crunched these numbers, and they were much less prescriptive about the data’s implications for the future of America.

The researchers did find a whole lot of people shifting from Hispanic and “some other race” in 2000 to Hispanic and white in 2010. But as they pointed out to me, a number of respondents went in the opposite direction — from Hispanic and white to Hispanic and “some other race.” In groups in which there was a lot of response change, there was no clear net flowing in one direction over another.

I also picked the brain of the very dope Julie Dowling, a sociologist at the University of Illinois, whose field work has focused on this very question. Dowling said that everything from geography to personal experience informs the way people identify racially. Indeed, Dowling said that a lot of how people identify officially is not related to how they identify in their day-to-day lives.

The census did this really big, comprehensive project where they sent out 17 different alternative questionnaires of the 2010 census. And some of those were a combined question, where they actually put Hispanic or Latino in there, alongside racial groups. So they had more than 750 households involved in this, and they went back and they interviewed about 1 in 6 of those individuals who filled out that form. They got a telephone re-interview, where they got called back.

“You checked white for your race. Is that how you identify in your daily life? Is that how other people see you?”

They found that for Latinos, those who checked white did not identify with the term. So about half of Latinos who checked white on the census, when they called them back, a very nominal amount of them thought of themselves as white. [The interviewers] asked them, “So why did you check this?” And they said, “Because there was nothing else. I don’t fit anywhere else. There’s nothing else to put.”

(Just how much does confusion over the census’s wording matter? Put it this way: Dowling said that in 2020, the third-largest racial group in the United States could likely be “some other race.”)

Dowling said that a person’s skin color doesn’t predict the way he or she will answer, either — many dark-skinned Latinos identify as white while many light-skinned Latinos check the “black” box on the census. A bigger predictor was ideology. “It wasn’t so much color or assimilation, but what strategy they use to combat the discrimination they faced,” she said. “Because the overwhelming majority of the people I spoke to experienced discrimination — whether they identified as white or whether they identified as other.”

Trayvon Martin’s Friend, Rachel Jeantel

Rachel Jeantel was the last person Trayvon Martin spoke to on the phone before his fateful confrontation with Zimmerman, and her testimony came under intense scrutiny — but it was almost overshadowed by the discussion of her demeanor on the stand. Jeantel — and the reactions to her — became a debate about race and class almost unto herself.

Rachel Jeantel leaves the courtroom for a break during George Zimmerman’s trial in June 2013.

Jacob Langston/AP

Last month, Krissah Thompson and Lonnae Parker O’Neal of the Washington Post caught up with Jeantel and documented the efforts by several well-connected figures, including the radio host and mogul Tom Joyner, who intervened in Jeantel’s life after seeing her on television during the trial. (They dubbed themselves “the village,” as in “it takes a village.”) It’s hard not to notice the cultural and socioeconomic gulfs between Jeantel and her self-appointed village, whose goals often seem at cross purposes.

With Joyner’s money, the village went to work. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall says she wept when she saw Jeantel on the stand, seeing her as proof of a failing school system. A Miami-Dade School Board member, Bendross-Mindingall threw herself into the cause, too. She arranged for Jeantel to be transferred to an alternative school, with smaller classes and intense staff involvement.

Jeantel’s mother, Marie Eugene, who speaks Creole and little English, silently watched the hurricane of help come into her daughter’s life. Few of Jeantel’s mentors had ever spoken with Eugene directly. At times, Jeantel herself was hardly consulted. …

Joyner won’t say how much the foundation has contributed to Jeantel’s care. “What matters is, did it work? The short answer to that is no,” Joyner says. Rachel graduated “not being motivated to get ready for the world.” Joyner wanted her college-ready — to get herself college ready. That’s what the foundation was paying for. “The educational system failed her, but here was an opportunity to do more than the system was offering her,” he says. “We took her to the water, and now the rest is up to her.” The offer remains open.

Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law

Months after the Zimmerman verdict, the trial of Michael Dunn earlier this year became national news, and the facts of that case bore many resonances with the Zimmerman trial. Jordan Davis, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed near a Florida gas station after an encounter in which the shooter, Dunn, felt his life was threatened. And since the shooting took place in Florida, it once again foregrounded the state’s “stand your ground” law, which allows people to pre-emptively use deadly force if they feel threatened. Like the Zimmerman case, the case became a flashpoint for the controversial law, whose support is split among partisan lines. (Unlike Zimmerman, Dunn was ultimately found guilty of attempted murder, for shooting at the people who were with Dunn.)

The New Yorker‘s Jeffrey Toobin wrote that while the “stand your ground” statute wasn’t invoked in either case, it informed the proceedings.

Neither Zimmerman nor Dunn took full advantage of Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Under that statute, both defendants were entitled to ask for a pretrial hearing in which the judge could have dismissed the case outright; the law empowers judges to grant defendants immunity if they find that the defendants had a right to act as they did. Both Zimmerman and Dunn chose to forgo those hearings and take their chances with juries. The decision paid off for Zimmerman, less so for Dunn.

Still, stand your ground was at the heart of both cases. The state’s delay in charging Zimmerman in Martin’s death — an interval during which the case came to wide national attention — was largely due to questions about whether “stand your ground” applied. In Dunn’s case, his lawyer, Cory Strolla, cited the law in his closing argument: “His honor will further tell you that if Michael Dunn was in a public place where he had a legal right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.”

There are at least 24 states with “stand your ground” laws, but Florida’s has gotten the most attention. This is in part because it’s seen as the most expansive and because of some of the cases in which it has been invoked. (Exhibit A: The retired police officer who shot a man in a movie theater after a fight over text messages has invoked the statute.)

The limits and scope of the Sunshine State’s version of the law are still being worked out — a criminal trial in the courts right now is wrestling with whether to extend the stand-your-ground provision to include felons who have lost the right to carry weapons. And after the case of Marissa Alexander — who was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she claimed was a warning shot at her husband during a dispute — the state extended stand your ground to include warning shots.

But despite the efforts of groups like the Dream Defenders, who want the statute repealed, polls taken in the wake of the trial show that “stand your ground” remains broadly popular there. There’s also a sharp partisan divide on the issue in Florida and elsewhere — Republicans tend to support it while Democrats oppose it. “No one should pretend that the tragedies of Trayvon and Jordan took place in some politics-free zone,” Toobin wrote. “The shots may have been fired on a suburban street and by a gas station. But Democrats and Republicans disagree as much in courthouses as in statehouses.”

Re-post from:

You can trust us…..

Wow, truely a sad day in Utah. We thought you might be interested in this article.
Former Utah attorneys general Mark Shurtleff (left) and John Swallow were taken into custody Tuesday as part of a bribery investigation.

Former Utah attorneys general Mark Shurtleff (left) and John Swallow were taken into custody Tuesday as part of a bribery investigation.

Salt Lake County Sheriff/AP

Two former Utah state attorneys general were arrested Tuesday. Both face numerous charges, including receiving and soliciting bribes.

Mark Shurtleff served as attorney general for a dozen years before completing his third term at the beginning of 2013. John Swallow was elected to succeed him but resigned in November, less than a year into the job. Both are Republicans.

On Tuesday, Swallow was charged with 11 felonies and two misdemeanors, including accepting bribes, tampering with evidence, misuse of public funds and obstructing justice. Shurtleff faces 10 counts on similar charges.

They could each face 30 years in prison.

“This is a sad day for Utah,” GOP Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement. “The entire situation, regardless of how the legal process plays out, is a black eye for our state.”

The two men have been the subject of multiple investigations, including a $4 million probe by a special state House committee. Its report found that Swallow “compromised the principles and integrity of the office to benefit himself and his political supporters” and that Shurtleff “sold out” Utah residents.

“We have filed what we think are appropriate and minimal charges,” Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill said at a news conference Tuesday, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. “We could have filed more, but we chose at this time to just file what we did.”

Gill, who is a Democrat, denied any partisan motivation.

The complicated case centers on the relationship between Swallow and Shurtleff and various businessmen. They are accused of using, on multiple occasions, a private jet, luxury houseboat and Ferrari belonging to a man named Jeremy Johnson, who has been indicted on 86 federal charges of fraud.

According to the Deseret News, investigators have also examined their relationship with another wealthy businessman, Marc Sessions Jenson. Jenson is serving a 10-year sentence on securities fraud and has accused Shurtleff and Swallow of extortion.

On a 2009 recording that surfaced last year, Shurtleff is heard saying he believed he could get $2 million from Jenson to silence an investor.

The “drumbeat had been building” that the former attorneys general could face serious charges, says Christopher Karpowitz, a political science professor at Brigham Young University.

“It’s always shocking if the two previous chief law enforcement officers of a state are arrested,” Karpowitz says. “When a scandal of this magnitude hits the state, that is both shocking and sad.”

Re-Post from: NPR

Have you been convicted of a crime?

” If you have applied for a job, then you have probably answered the question,” have you been convicted of a crime?” A handful of states are moving to ban this question from applications, “should we?” I know some would agree that it is a broad question. The word “crime” varies greatly. This article raises some questions on how this ban would work and some problems or solutions it will come up with.

-Uday Law Office

How Banning One Question Could Help Ex-Offenders Land A Job

Washington, D.C., is expected to join four states and several cities soon in prohibiting companies from asking job applicants — up front — if they have a criminal record.

It’s part of a growing movement called Ban the Box, a reference to that box on a job application form that asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

Advocates for the laws say having to check the box prevents many ex-offenders from getting a fair shot at a job.

Chearie Phelps-El says it happened to her. The Washington resident was released from prison about a year ago after serving five years for felony assault for fighting with two other women.

It was her second conviction for assault. But at age 51, Phelps-El says she was determined to get her life in order, and has applied for numerous jobs at local hotels, sports clubs and hair salons.

“But none of ‘em called me back,” she says. “That’s the only thing I can think of is the box.”

Phelps-El says that’s ironic, because in prison she received lots of training on how to re-enter society and become a productive, law-abiding citizen. She took classes on how to do her resume and apply for jobs, among other things. And now it seems like a waste.

“Just ban the box. Give us a chance to go in, have an interview, sell ourselves, let the person know who we are,” she says, adding that employers are missing out on a lot of good workers.

In Washington, D.C., an estimated 1 in 10 residents has a criminal record. Nationally, about 70 million people in the U.S. have been arrested or convicted of a crime.

Sherman Justice says he also had to struggle when he got out of prison two years ago after serving time for robbery and drug trafficking.

“It was hard for me. I didn’t just get a job off top when I first got out,” he says. “I almost hung around the wrong people again. And I made a conscious decision, like, this is not what I want to do.”

Eventually, the 27-year-old landed a job with a Washington advocacy group, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

But many ex-cons get frustrated when they can’t find work and return to a life of crime.

“About 50 percent of returning citizens do re-enter the criminal justice system,” says Ari Weisbard, deputy director of the D.C. Employment Justice Center. “Anything that we can do to lower that is going to both be better for overall costs and lowering the costs of imprisoning all of these people, and, of course, better for the victims of those crimes.”

And he says employment has been shown to be one of the best ways to reduce recidivism.

Advocates of ban-the-box laws note that sensitive jobs, like child care, are still protected under the laws. And they point out that employers are not prevented from checking an applicant’s criminal record. They just have to do it later on in the hiring process — in some cases after the employer has made a preliminary job offer.

That’s too late, says Elizabeth Milito, senior executive counsel with the National Federation of Independent Business. “That’s pretty far down the road for a small business owner that might have only five or 10 employees and needs somebody in there now,” she says.

Milito argues that small businesses can’t afford a long hiring process, especially if they know that someone’s criminal record is relevant. She gives the example of a plumber who sends his workers into customers’ homes.

“They’re very concerned about sending anyone in that may have a conviction, a recent conviction, say for theft, burglary. And certainly physical issues, too,” she says.

In the end, Milito predicts, the new laws will discourage some companies from hiring.

Christine Cunneen is the CEO of Hire Image, a background screening company in Rhode Island. She says many of her clients hire ex-offenders, but they want job applicants to be honest about their criminal backgrounds upfront because it’s an important factor in the hiring decision.

“It shows certain characteristics of a person. Are they going to be able to listen to authority? Are they going to be able to be trusted? There’s a lot of businesses out there that are accepting credit cards, so if someone’s had credit card fraud, I mean, somebody should know about that,” she says.

Still, banning the box is increasingly popular. Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Minnesota have ban-the-box laws for companies, and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign a similar law for his state soon. Illinois and several other states have already banned the box for public sector job applicants. The Washington, D.C., city council is expected to pass its bill banning the box on Monday.

Also, several big chains, like Wal-Mart and Target, have eliminated the criminal history question from their application forms. And advocates hope to expand the campaign to other areas, like housing, where ex-offenders are also excluded.

Sherman Justice, the former prisoner, says barriers to re-entry are everywhere. He says last year he was invited to a White House event for his group’s work on civil rights. He says he was preparing to go that morning, when he got a phone call at home.

“I sat on the edge of the bed, and, you know, I mean, the tears start coming in,” he recalls.

Justice was told he wouldn’t be able to go to the White House event after all. With his felony record, he hadn’t passed the security check.

Re-post from:

Death Penalty

” Recently in the news and I’m sure most have heard about the botched execution, this is a small write up about some challenges states are facing in preforming Lethal Injection.”

- Uday Law office

Death Penalty and botched execution:

The Death penalty is an option in our great state of Utah. The legal way to carry out this sentence and favored way by most states is lethal injection, but that method has become problematic and is under increased scrutiny following the death of Clayton Lockett, who died of a heart attack in Oklahoma after undergoing, “botched execution”.  The standards in which we are preforming these executions are falling short of humane standards. The original concoction of drugs used to perform lethal injection has become sparse, forcing states to experiment with new combinations.

For about 30 years the primary death penalty method used was a three drug protocol, consisting of barbiturate, or anesthetic; a muscle relaxant to create paralysis, and a drug that would stop the heart.  Ironically this method came out of Oklahoma and was first used in Texas successfully and then soon after, all but one state had adopted it.  The restrictions on drug exports by Europe in 2011 is what has caused the problem in using the right 3 drugs, we just can’t get them.

This year alone has resulted in more botched executions than ever before. Some corrections are being made and some movement is happening with the amount of drugs dispensed to condemned prisoners. Recent botches prisoners have taken over 25 minutes to die and they complain that they burn all over. Some say this is what they deserve due to the nature of the crime they committed and some say we as a society should be better people.

While Oklahoma puts executions on hold, this doesn’t mean we will stop execution, some states are very determined to stop this form of execution and we will just have to see how much the federal & supreme courts will have patience for in this experimentation process.

Everything You Need to Know About Buying Legal Weed in Washington State | TIME

Everything You Need to Know About Buying Legal Weed in Washington State | TIME.

America’s second recreational weed market is open for business. Here’s how it works

When, exactly, are shops going to open?

The Washington State Liquor Control Board, the body tasked with implementing the nuts and bolts of the new marijuana market, issued licenses to 24 retail shops on July 7. Shops are allowed to open 24 hours after the owners finish the licensing process, so July 8 is the earliest possible day. Sales are generally allowed to take place between 8 a.m. and midnight.

And how do you know which shops are licensed to sell weed?

You can find information about the first batch of stores, such as the Happy Crop Shoppe and the Bud Hut, here. Brian Smith, the Liquor Board’s director of communications, says the Board has tried to ensure a geographic range for the first stores, while also making sure to serve areas with the densest populations, like the Puget Sound corridor. But it’s still a work in progress. Seattle, the state’s largest city, has only one shop approved for opening day.

Aren’t there supposed to be shortages?

Likely so. As in Colorado, people will be drawn out by the historic nature of the occasion, and 24 retail shops is a fraction of the more than 334 the state plans to eventually license. Owners of those few open establishments might decide to ration their product, setting lower-than-normal limits on how much each person can buy, or raise prices while supply is low and demand is high.

So how much will the legal weed cost?

Store owners likely to be licensed have said that they’re aiming to sell their weed for about $12 per gram, but those prices may range up to $25 per gram.

But when the supply is full, are there any limits on how much you can buy?

The law caps the amount you can purchase and possess at any one time at one ounce (28 grams).

What about pot brownies and other edibles?

THC-infused treats won’t legally be available for awhile. The Board has said that such products must be tested and approved, and so far none have made the grade. Colorado has had some problems with kids eating what look like normal brownies or candies and ending up dangerously sedated, which officials are working to prevent through stricter rules.

Can you light up anywhere?

Nope. It’s illegal to smoke marijuana in public places — or even in legal marijuana shops. Those caught consuming in public will not be arrested, but can be given a $27 ticket (akin to a parking violation). Driving while high is also illegal.

So what about out-of-state shoppers who don’t have private residences?

Only 25% of hotel rooms in the state are allowed to be designated as smoking rooms. Whether those allow marijuana smoking appears to be up to the individual hotel owners, so call beforehand if you’re a tourist looking for a place to toke. According to the Washington Lodging Association, “There is no current protocol within the hospitality industry as to smoking medical or recreational marijuana inside hotels.”

When will more shops be open?

The Board will keep churning through the more than 2,000 applications they have left to vet for aspiring growers, processors and retail shops. Smith says there’s no set date when 334 shops are supposed to be open but emphasizes that a dedicated team will be working as fast as they can to get the market up and running. “It’s going to be a bumpy start,” says Randy Simmons, the Board’s deputy director. “There’s no question about that.” The loose estimate from state officials is to have around 100 licensed stores open by year’s end.


Mass killing

Why Mass Killers Are Always Male

Whenever there’s a mass shooting or massacre, there’s a 98% chance the perpetrator is a man. Why is that?

There are no absolute certainties when it comes to mass killers, but a few things come close. Someone will use the term “disaffected youth” to describe the perpetrator. Somewhere there will be a diary—either Tweets, blogs, YouTube videos or scrawled musings in a lined notebook. And the murderer will—with more than a 98% certainty—be male.

That was the case again on Friday as Elliott Rodger, a 22-year-old student at Santa Barbara City College, killed six people and wounded 13 others in a stabbing and shooting spree, before taking his own life. If you say that you were surprised that his name was Elliott and not, say, Ellen, you either haven’t been paying attention or you’re playing at political correctness. But the fact remains: it’s almost always boys who go bad. The question is, Why?

There is no shortage of explanations for the overwhelming maleness of the monster population. Some of the answers reveal a lot—and yet nothing at all. Testosterone fuels aggression. Stipulated. Boys take longer to mature than girls. Stipulated. And like the forebrains of young females, those of young males are not fully myelinated until the late 20s or even early 30s. The forebrain is where executive functions—impulse control, reflection, awareness of consequences—live. In the case of males, who are already trip-wired for aggression, that provides a lot of years to behave badly.

There are, too, the social factors: violent video games, a culture of physical aggression fueled by contact sports and the general tendency of all societies to turn their men into hunters and warriors, putting those jobs off-limits to women or at least making them optional.

But there’s more, and a lot of it has to do with status. Males, for better or worse, are ferociously protective of their position in any tribe, community, or society, and any threat to that position goes to the core of their identity and self-esteem. It’s a common observation in times of recession that while loss of a job is miserable for both genders, it’s the males who are likelier to become completely undone by it. Without the role of worker and money-earner, men feel hollowed-out, and that too often calls for revenge. it’s not for nothing that the victims in workplace shootings are often managers who just the month before demoted or sacked the shooter.

As Candice Batton, director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, told NPR in the wake of the 2013 Washington Navy Yard shootings:

“Some research supports the idea that males are more likely than females to develop negative attributions of blame that are external in nature, that is: ‘The cause … of my problems is someone else or some force outside of me’. And this translates into anger and hostility toward others.”

[Women], on the other hand, “are more likely to develop negative attributions of blame that are internal in nature, that is: ‘The cause of my problems is some failing of my own: I didn’t try hard enough, I’m not good enough.”

This is also the reason that when women do kill—and they do—it’s typically in a more intimate way, such as by drowning or suffocating. Men tend to go wild, spraying a room with gunfire and the world be damned. That, of course, also increases the male killer’s body count.

Rodger, dead now, his work done now, fits so much of this ugly profile. He did leave a diary—in his case YouTube videos—and his rants bare his resentments toward the women who never found him attractive enough, as primal a kind of status loss as can possibly be imagined.

He now joins the dark gallery of men and boys who have gone before him—each of them less important than the previous ones, since their crimes become so tragically familiar. If there is any bitter satisfaction to take from that, it’s that in their very attempt to be remarkable in some way, mass killers instead achieve a sort of homicidal banality, the anonymity they dreaded in life following them into death.

Re-post from:

Social Media

Social Media: Friend or Foe?
Posted July, 8, 2014
There are many social media outlets such as Instagram, Twitter, myspace, Pinterest & Facebook. Lets take Facebook for example; it is a social networking website that has defined personal mass communication in recent years. It’s free to set up and use an account. You create a profile that describes you, your interests, your relationship status, and whatever personal information you wish to share with either the general public or selected friends and family who also have accounts on the site. You can publish photos of family, friends, pets, travels, and whatever else you like. It gives you the freedom to express yourself, let people know what’s on your mind, start or spread gossip or “news,” notify acquaintances of how great your life is–or isn’t, what party you went to last weekend, and so on. The site itself states that it “helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” And people do–maybe too much.

You might think that the things you put on your profile are confidential to only the friends you’ve accepted by the push of a button. And you say , “Doesn’t the fourth amendment give me the right against unreasonable search and seizure? ” It states that all citizens have the right “to be secure in a person’s house, papers and effects and this right shall not be violated and no warrant shall only be issued but upon probable cause.” But hold on. This does not keep police from pursuing the information on your Facebook profile–or your blog, for that matter. Police are not restricted from joining such sites and befriending suspects and gathering vital information for investigations. You could be in trouble–real trouble, not just embarrassment–especially if you have not taken the time to fine-tune your privacy settings or have been careless in what information you (or your friends!) provide.

And you aren’t protected by deleting content either. You think you’re safe because you deleted those exposed or telling photos of you and your friends, but Facebook keeps what’s called a “neoprint” of up to 90 days of all photos uploaded by you or your friends and the tagging and captioning done on them. Facebook also has all of your contact information (like location, phone numbers, and email addresses) and the IP addresses of computers you’ve used to access your account, whether or not you’ve made this information private. All of this information can be made available to the police at their request.

Facebook itself knows too much about you. The engineers of this web tool have made this site intelligent enough to use your information cleverly. For instance, they consider your relationship status–and changes in said status–when serving up advertisements for wedding rings or dating sites. This could be seen as threatening your privacy.

Ever joined a group? A list of any and all members of a group–such as the “I love cheese” group–could at any time be handed over to the police, who can request and receive any information about those members contained in their profiles. Associations are recorded. Ever heard the phrase “guilt by association”? The implications are scary.

In the news recently, teens were arrested for underage drinking because they posted pictures of themselves at a party, drinks in hand. A 23-year-old man was charged with speeding and reckless endangerment after police came across a video posted on Facebook of him driving at 160 miles per hour on a highway. And there are other precautions you should consider, even if you’re not bending or breaking the laws. In New York, a ring of robbers was recently busted. They had been “hitting” houses whose owners had posted Facebook messages indicating their vacation plans, thus tipping off the robbers that no one would be home when they came to poke around.

Think before you post your life on the internet because it lives on in the cyber world and digital archives and may come back to bite you!