Oxford 2.0

Interesting article in the Times today outlining the case of one Oxford student who had been caught, and fined, by her college for taking part in a “trashing”. Trashing being the traditional way in which students celebrate finishing their final year and generally involves being covered in liquid, shaving foam, cream, egg or similar. The problem being that the local council kicked up a fuss at the proposed cost of cleaning up this mess and as a result the University has had to ‘outlaw’ the act and impose fines to those caught doing it. Fair enough. Sure, it will still go on, it being a tradition and all, but clearly just make sure you don’t get caught doing it…

  Well, this student must have thought she’d gotten away with it and was starting to enjoy her summer holiday when she was contacted by the University and told she would be fined for trashing. But how did they know? Well it turns out the University has come kicking and screaming into the 21st century and, by the sounds of it, has members of staff (or similar) actually monitoring students social media sites. And the evidence – well that would be the numerous pictures of the student, on her Facebook profile, covered in foam with her college in the background. Whilst clearly not a heinous crime, it was still outlawed by the University and it would not be too dissimilar to burglars taking pictures of themselves mid burglary and posting them to the web. Yes it might seem a little sneaky, even portrayed in the article as ‘spying’, but if the information is ‘published’ then how can it be spying – it’s not like they’ve broken into her dormitory, gone through her draws and found her printouts from Jessops..  

Increasing social media technologies are public, or fairly public, by default. If you want to keep something secret then don’t post about it, who knows who might see it, keep your secrets (or incriminating evidence) in the draws, they’ll be safer there.


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