Facing Trouble

Facebook. Who doesn’t have one? Facebook has become the convening point of so many high school and college students. Whether you enjoy updating your own profile or reading up on that cute stranger in your biology class, Facebook is an integral part of our social lives. However, Facebook profiles are double-edged swords. Students have been put on probation or even expelled from their schools on numerous occasions for having illicit pictures of themselves posted on Facebook. Students are not the only people getting in trouble because of Facebook, however. The much-publicized lawsuits against Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, who also happens to be a Phillips Andover alumnus, have not gone away. Twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss filed a lawsuit three years ago accusing Zuckerberg of stealing the source code, design and business plan for Facebook in 2003 while he was working in Harvard dorms as a programmer for their own social-networking site, now known as ConnectU. The twins have asked for Facebook to be shut down and that full control of the Web site and its profits turned over to them. Both Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss twins have been so preoccupied with their lawsuit that they have forgotten about yet another Harvard classmate, Aaron J. Greenspan. Six months before Facebook started and eight months before ConnectU went online, Greenspan established a simple Web service that he called houseSYSTEM. It was used by several thousand Harvard students, including Zuckerberg, for a variety of online college-related tasks. An email message, circulated widely by Greenspan to Harvard students on Sept. 19, 2003, described the newest feature of houseSYSTEM as “the Face Book,” an online system for quickly locating other students. “The Face Book” was introduced four months before Zuckerberg started In his recent autobiography, Greenspan bitterly wrote: “Remember the Web site you signed up for at Harvard two days before we met in January, 2004, called houseSYSTEM — the one I made with the Universal Face Book that predated your site by four months?” Zuckerberg did not dispute the chronology of events or the authenticity of Greenspan’s email messages, according to The New York Times. Greenspan and the Winklevoss twins aren’t the only ones Zuckerberg has reportedly borrowed ideas from; Facebook is moving closer and closer to Myspace in both design and vulnerability. The myriad of new applications Facebook users can now add to their profiles are welcomed by some as cool new features but viewed as unnecessary clutter by others. Facebook users must now scroll down much further past new applications to get to, indisputably, the most important feature of Facebook: the wall. Many users have joined groups such as “A plea to Facebook: Don’t become Myspace” in hopes that Facebook will cut back on the clutter of new applications. Even though Facebook maintains many of the various restrictions it had when it opened to the general public last year, it is being accused of not doing enough to keep sexual predators off its site. Facebook has, however, taken steps to insure its users’ safety. For example, a student’s full profile is not accessible to the general online public, and the full profile of an under-18 Facebook member is not viewable by a user who is over 18 unless the two are confirmed friends on the service. However, there are ways to get around those restrictions, and in some cases, Facebook’s younger users are still vulnerable to sexual solicitations from older users. With more than 37 million users, Facebook has become an essential part of modern social life, but it is not without its dangers. While the Web site is a great place to keep in touch with friends, don’t let your guard down while networking.