back to article Facebook checks for Cambridge applicants

Somewhat behind the rush, it seems that at least some Oxbridge academics are getting wise to the Facebook phenomenon. The Guardian reports today that Dr Richard Barnes, admissions tutor at Cambridge's Emmanuel College, recently admitted as much. "This has been the year in which I joined Facebook," commented Barnes, speaking of …

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Anonymous Coward

ha

you pu it on the internet, you're gonna get it come back at you.

Take naked photos? One day someone will put them online somewhere maybe somewhere "safe" maybe give them too a friend. Sooner or later they'll end up online, then someone will find those photos. They'll then post it somewhere that people take an interest in such things. One of them will find you. Then it's all over.

They'll post pictures to your friends, family, work collegues, educators, governors, anybody they can get mail addresses. They'll raid social networking sites, create fake accounts, they'll invest a whole night in wrecking your world. If you provide epic lulz maybe they'll spend a few nights on you. If you provide truely epic lulz they will spend weeks on you.

The same stands for anything else you post, events at drunken parties are there for all to see, being unfaithful, stealing office materials, bad mouthing foreigners, so on and so forth. If you put it online, one day it could come back and bite you in the ass, and you have nobody to blame but yourselves. Course the Oxford professor, law enforcment and potential employers do it for a "good" reason, most people will just do it for a laugh.

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why isn't appropriate?

It happens in jobs. As the article pointed out, this guy was alerted to the idea by city chums. I definitely google applicants for any role. This is world we live in, if you don't want to be judged by your online activity e.g. facebook, then don't be on it!

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Stu
Go

Hypocrites

Only last year, Oxford used pictures posted on Facebook of a finallist that had finished her exams and had been covered in detritus* as evidence to haul the poor girl in front of a tribunal, and fine her for misconduct.

Seems it's "appropriate" for the University to use Facebook in that context, but not in the context of applications.

*it happens to every finallist as a matter of course, trust me - anything ranging from champagne and glitter, thru eggs and flour (messy), to buckets of offal (yuk). The University has been trying for years to crack down on it, with very limited success (until they started taking the Facebook approach). Quite how it's the person covered in crap's fault that they're covered in crap is beyond me - I'd love a law finallist to graduate, then sue the University for the fine + costs...

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Pirate

All fun and games until somebody loses a job

For my money this will be a shortlived phenomenon. There is already the issue of googlegangers (people who share your name and consequently turn up when other people google you.) It is only a matter of time before somebody gets badly burned because of somebody else putting up a fake defamatory profile of them (whether malicious or funny-ha-ha). Cue wringing of hands, media inquisition, overwrought Daily Mail editorials, over-reaching legislative remedy, eventual return to sanity as per the usual Internet Wash Cycle:

1) Discover that X is available online

2) Discover that X available online may be slightly less than totally reliable

3) Rinse and repeat

After that, of course, it's only a matter of time before "I didn't write that, it's somebody out to get me" becomes the standard defence for having your embarrassing online juvenilia unearthed.

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Flame

Spanner

Did author's degree in spanner-handling at some East-Anglian college may confuse him in mistaking the precedence of UK academic institutions?

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Dead Vulture

privacy

...or you could set your privacy settings so that only friends see your naked pics, and not crusty old deans...

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Dom

@Spanner

And again, in English this time please?

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Happy

Come come, that's hardly cricket !

"... the perfectly acceptable minor university at Oxford ..."

@Risky

So Mr Page didn't come from the "other place in the swamp" (as we used to call it) as I thought he might - I'd assumed only a Cambridge man would be quite so disparaging !

@Stu

In my day it was mostly saving foam and silly string - still very messy. As you say, it's hardly the finalists fault since it's normally their 'friends' inflicting this upon them. Being a total party pooper I actually managed to avoid this ritual - I spotted them up the High Street so diverted via the back lane and made it to the porters lodge before they spotted me coming down the Turl behind them.

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Anonymous Coward

Cambridge for Scholarship

- Oxford for marmalade.

i thought it was nice that the college thingy got a mention at all. If I'd had a hand in 'educating' Blair i'd want to keep quiet about it.

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@Dom & @Spanner

I think he's referring to this line in the article:

Cambridge's aspiring rival, the perfectly acceptable minor university at Oxford

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Anonymous Coward

@privacy

and you're assuming your friends wont cross post. You're brave.

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Linux

farcebook

that's why I only have close friends on my farcebook account. No family, no work colleagues, and definitely no random strangers. And farcebook is infinitely better than mySpaz

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Anonymous Coward

Why it's not appropriate.

Why is a minor's criminal record wiped at 16? Because the child matures and learns from his mistakes. They may be nearer 18, but university applicants really are still children. Even when they're undergrads, most are still pretty immature -- we can classify most students under the broad categories of try-everything-once hedonist, the-army-should-shoot-anyone-who-disagrees-with-the-motherland fascists, save-the-organic-whales vegan greenies, won't-somebody-think-of-the-african-children hippies and I-don't-have-time-to-laugh-this-degree-is-the-most-important-thing-in-my-life bookworms.

Kids are all extremists of some sort. I think all of us are embarassed by some of the things we used to do. These things fade -- our characters change.

A trawl through the dejanews archive at the Usenet posts of my uni days (AC so no-one will go hunt them down and post them here) still leaves me mortified. There's a couple of posts in particular that are extreme to the point of career-limiting and I live with the constant awareness that my next job application could be the one that uncovers them.

I reckon it'd be pretty difficult to judge someone's character accurately from half-a-dozen photos and a wall full of txt-spk obscenities.....

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Joke

Hmm

It would be a mistake to assume anything you learned about somebody on Facebook were true. Many people lead a fantasy existence on 'tinterweb. My ex-wife's facebook account describes her has 'vivacious', when 'borderline-frigid' would have been more appropriate.

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Law
Paris Hilton

ok... but

To be fair - I don't post naked/drunk photos, or any pro-nazi media on my profiles.... but what I do put on there is not intended for my company or university.

Those who say it's public domain are right, but then streets are public domain too - and when you walk down one after applying for something it is generally accepted that the company/university you applied to will not walk behind you and document every action and pick apart you dairly routine. Facebook etc are public domain, but applicatants should still be given a certain amount of privacy... as far as I'm concerned, what I put in my application and references is what I have agreed they should be judging me on.... it isn't an invitation to go invade my privacy and pick apart the goings on of my online/offline life - no matter how usefull the company or university may see it. What next, they find out that I was adopted because I have a black brother and decide I might be damaged goods.... or the people who ticked "I refuse to give my ethnicity" are then facebooked and the information is acquired anyway..... its just not right... the same way companies/universities can't go through your credit reference without your concent, or you have a right to withold you ethnicity or disability, if they are seeing this as a source of public information to judge you on then you should have a tick box to agree to having your name googled/facebooked/whatever else.

Lastly the applicants should consider the companies/institutions they apply for - and decide if they want to be part of something that is that shady.

</rant>

Paris icon cos I miss her.... shes not in the news half as much these days! :(

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Thumb Up

@simon Hobson

You were correct (http://lewispage.blogspot.com). "Spanner" is a reference to the course.

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HR

I think a lot of HR people would advise against it because you could open yourself up for discrimination lawsuits.

But then they're probably more interested in the process rather than the end result.

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@ jeremy

Why isn't it appropriate when it's done in the world of employment? Simple, it's not a job they are applying for but access to education which should be based solely on that persons ability.

While I was at university, I seem to remember everyone who was working getting something called a paycheck - I on the other hand had a loan which I had to return after leaving. Maybe you'd be happy to return some of your salary when you next move to a new job. After all, without the experience gained with your current employer you may not have got the new job and the benefits that accompany it.

On the Cambridge/Oxford rivalry: they're both just trying to cover up for the fact that if you want to study anything other than classics, there are universities across the country that are better than either.

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Black Helicopters

@ Risky

Would you trust a man whose blogspot page advertises the ex-employer he's slated in so many columns over the years? ;-)

Good old google...

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Jobs Horns

@Simon Hobson

".... diverted via the back lane and made it to the porters lodge before they spotted me coming down the Turl behind them."

what is this Turl of which you speak? some kind of bizarre English sexual euphenism? own up, lad!

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Privacy

The only problem is that, at most, any photos that you put on Facebook can only be seen by people that you add as friends and people who belong to the same network as you (this goes for your whole profile for that matter).

Anyone concerned about their privacy can restrict the photos to be shared with their friends only, and you can even add friends but restrict them from viewing your photos.

So I don't see how a potential employer or university could use Facebook as part of their vetting process.

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Anonymous Coward

Wronger than an already wrongheaded admissions policy?

Let's call a spade a spade.

Looking at Facebook to judge who should have access to higher education at the "best" universities in the UK is only marginally less ridiculous than deciding who gets a place on the basis of how privileged their upbringing was, whether they'd been to state or public school or whether they fulfil some kind of Blair-friendly minorities quota.

When university admission is wrongheaded enough to have little to do with aptitude, whether it's Facebook or something more sinister that swings the voters is academic - a miss is as good as a mile.

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Happy

@Simon Hobson

Was your porter's lodge on the Turl itself? Which side, and which end?

@AC (first comment in this thread)

epic lulz? In my Reg? I'd rather do a barrel roll...

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Anonymous Coward

check the facts please

Dr Barnes merely wrote that Facebook was used to check applicants for "college positions". This means employment within the college, not places for students.

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The glorious confluence of Oxbridge and the Reg

One of the lesser known perks of going to Oxbridge (Cambridge, at least, I don't know if Oxford does the same thing) is that if you manage to a) survive and b) not get convicted of anything for three years after you graduate with a bachelor's degree, you get to go back, have a rather nice dinner, and get a free master's degree.

Part of the (of course, highly traditional and full of bits of Latin no-one understands any more) ceremony surrounding this involves the group of people getting the degree affirming (as a group) that they are of good standing in their respective communities. If you can't, theoretically, you don't get the degree.

At this point in proceedings I remarked loudly to the room in general "I'll get my coat, then"...

to anonymous coward (16:32 GMT), the problem is this. For most courses, Oxford and Cambridge (and other leading universities) get far more applications than there are places. They also get more applications than there are places from applicants who are, by any rational measurement, of equal capacity. Over three years of tuition they'll find out which ones are marginally smarter / more motivated than the others, but over a few written tests and applications and a few half hour interviews, they really can't. For most given courses they'll have, say, 100 places and 200 applicants who they really just could not rationally speaking tell apart. They don't *know* which 100 are actually likely to do better than the other 100.

So it comes down to caprice, hunches, irrational factors and - probably a bit more than is admitted - prejudice and the old boy network. I happened to get a place at Cambridge; I'm sure there were at least two or three other people to whom my place could have gone who would have filled it equally well. In the end, they have to pick *someone*.

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Sure glad

I'm sure glad that I canceled my facebook account a while back. I was really just done with getting an email every time one of my friends with no life decided to add 37 pictures linked with me. And I really got no benefit from using the crap. Some people actually consider facebook messages to be some sort of legitimate form of communication too, which is about 3 steps past ridiculous. Someone actually got somewhat mad at me for not reading some crap they sent me - they couldn't cope with the fact that I hadn't logged into my account for months.

I know 2 people that managed to fail out of school because they spent so much time trolling facebook instead of going to class or studying. I imagine that they would have found some other way to waste their time if facebook wasn't around, but I can't think of anything much more useless than wasting an opportunity for a higher education on pictures of passed out morons w/ various genetalia drawn on them. The mind doth boggle.

Last I checked there was someone with my exact same name on there, but they went to school on the opposite coast, I hope no employer is thick enough to miss details like that.

When, oh when, did the Internet go wrong? It was so nice back when it was just porn and text. There used to be some sort of barrier to entry to Internet publication, namely money and ability. If you avoided anglefire and geocities then the whole thing was just so sane and useful. And that was a full decade ago now, so I feel justified in my nostalgia.

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Linux

who ?

Of course some IT aware people even in the good old BBS days never used their real name.

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Anonymous Coward

"Facebook is public domain material." ?

Not if you restrict who can view it. And anyway, I thought Facebook material became copyright Facebook the moment you upload...

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Anonymous Coward

Out-of-context quotes

I'm an ex-Emmanuel student and, as a result, they send me all sorts of things in the post, most of which are requests for money.... Anyway, among the other things they sent me a month or two ago was a nice glossy magazine containing this statement.

"... I have to confess that I actually joined Facebook to see what I was missing and also to check up (discreetly) on applicants for a College position. I had been alerted to the value of this by some of our Members from the City. I now see that activity as a relatively minor aspect of the IT culture embodied in Facebook and other similar groups. Progressively the Facebook culture will be a main means for groups , like our Members, the Emmanuel Society, and the College, to keep in touch."

So, it's "for a College position" - ie. as an employee of the College, probably as an academic - and this use is a "relatively minor aspect".

I see no problem with this... surely it's a general rule for life that you shouldn't have embarrassing photos on the web where a future employer may find them?

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Anonymous Coward

o dear re sure glad

I've just realised that angelfire and geocities are the foundation of todays 2.0 internet. I think I'm gonna have to become an hero...

Those were the only places over loaded with rubbish ads and drivle. Just like 99% of the internet today.

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Stop

news?

come on. is this really tech news at all? this has been going on for years - okay, its 'cool' to mention facebook...but before facebook was myspace - and we've also got bebo abd tons of other sites. where I work..and where i've worked in the past, we've ALWAYS used such sites - and search engines - to find more details about applicants and known arrivals. it often helps to break the ice. and if they've got a legal home page they'll often end up hosting it locally when they join us.

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Alert

Just one thing...

OK I see it's considered an appropriate practice, but I have yet to see any evidence that any information found on a networking website would be relevant to any kind of application.

Why should what apps you have on Facebook or your list of favourite music, movies etc bias your chances of success at work or further education?

To be fair though, all problems can be avoided with the various security and privacy settings available from Facebook. I know I have them set so if anyone can see it, I know who it is, which negates any risk really.

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Black Helicopters

Facebook?

But why on God's earth would you ever want to put your personal details on Facebook?

Answers on the back of a postage stamp please.....

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Alert

FAKE ACCOUNTS

A lot of people have missed what I see as a major point.

What stops the school bully, or anyone that doesn't like you creating an account in your name. posting some bad photos. This happens at school as a form of bullying but when it effects your university application its ridiculous. They have no proof it was you, ur details, or photos u want published.

They should stop this now.

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