Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 25, 2013

What do you post online?

Speaker at IUK says there is no privacy on the world wide web.

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

— Party photos flashed across a giant screen for more than 30 people to see Wednesday night.

There was the college students crafting a beer pong table from dorm room desks. Then there was a guy passed out under a table — beer bottle still in hand. One photo showed students jammed into a bath tub holding their alcohol up for all to see.

C.L. Lindsay laughed as he showed another photo of a girl smiling and posing for the camera. She was holding a giant bag of marijuana in each hand.

“In case you didn’t know what it was already, she titled the photograph ‘Me and my friends Mary Jane,’” Lindsay said.

He has 6,000 of those photographs, he said.

Where did he get them?

He found them during a simple online search.

Lindsay has been traveling the country since 2005 talking to students on college campuses about the dangers of posting too much information on the Internet.

The attorney made a stop at Indiana University Kokomo Wednesday for a presentation.

“If students take one thing from this, I hope it’s this: you shouldn’t do anything online that you wouldn’t do offline,” he said. “That would solve so many problems.”

But everyone wants to believe that what they do online is private. That’s preposterous, Lindsay said.

He said that’s like getting mad at the police when they arrest you for posting a billboard of yourself with bags of marijuana to advertise your drug-dealing business.

People would laugh if you tried to tell them that message was supposed to be private, Lindsay said. Posting information on the world wide web is no different, he said.

“Don’t take a photo of you breaking the law,” Lindsay told students. “I can’t believe I even have to say that.”

He admitted that a single photo of someone drinking underage or smoking pot likely wouldn’t be enough for police to make an arrest.

The burden of proof is too high, he said. People could argue that they put water in the vodka bottle or that the bag of marijuana is actually oregano.

That excuse wouldn’t work in a university disciplinary hearing, though.

The burden of proof is much lower. Officials simply have to prove that it “more likely than not” happened.

Lindsay said the bar is really low. There only has to be a 51 percent chance that it happened.

“One picture can be proof of an infraction,” he said.

Even if the photos don’t get you in trouble with the law, they could ruin your chances of getting a job some day.

It’s free to do a Google search, and you can bet employers are using that as a tool to help screen potential employees, Lindsay said.

A recent survey revealed that 44 percent of employers use online searches during the job interview process, and 40 percent reported eliminating candidates because of something they found online. Lindsay said he thinks that’s a low estimate.

He asked students what their photos reveal about them.

Do their Facebook, MySpace or Instagram photos say, “I smoke a load of dope,” or  “I’m a bit of a problem drinker,” he said.

If so, they should probably re-think what they’re putting out there for the world to see.

Lindsay said students are always surprised by how limited their rights are online and by the sheer amount of information that can be gleaned from the Internet.

Over the years, they’ve become more Internet savvy and generally have a better understanding of the risk of posting information on social media sites.

That’s still not changing their habits, though.

“I still see the same number of crazy things online,” he said. “They’re kids. That’s what they do.”