Note to students: exercise caution while online

Although has become a near ubiquitous part of college life, it and other online networking sites should be used carefully by students.

The Kernel reported on Sept. 10 that Facebook has nearly 32,000 users connected to the UK network. Administration officials have warned students before regarding the dangers of posting private information on a very public Web site and now Facebook’s availability to the public is increasing again.

In the coming weeks, Facebook will greatly expand to allow search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN Live to list individuals’ Facebook profiles in search results.

This new feature will enable everyone who searches on these three sites to find you. Potential employers and others will now be able to look at parts of your profile, depending on your privacy settings on Facebook.

Students with a Facebook account should start looking over their profiles and check for questionable photos or information. Pictures of intoxicated friends from last weekend might seem funny, but employers may interpret these incidents as indicative of typical behavior. Skimpy Halloween costumes from last year may have looked great, but graduate school admission offices may find it unprofessional.

While these situations are not necessarily common, it requires little effort on the part of a Facebook user to alter their privacy settings to allow only their friends to see potentially compromising information.

Resetting safety settings and deleting any questionable content, including pictures, should be the first thing students do before this new feature is implemented.

The new openness of Facebook could cause some problems, but as long as students realize the Web site is technically a public space and monitor their profiles, everyone should be safe.

Students should also recognize that this caution must extend beyond Facebook.

Web sites such as Myspace and online blogs possess privacy features similar to Facebook, but often go unused by students.

As a general rule, always assume that the wrong person will see the information you post, and choose what to publish accordingly.