Published on May 9, 2013 | by Aimee Meade

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Public Facebook posts to become everlasting

Mobile phone at the British Library

Your tweets – recorded forever [image: Lorna McColl]

Paris Brown became the prime example of how your tweets can get you into trouble last month.

The 17-year-old resigned from her position as Youth Police Commissioner because of offensive tweets she posted three years ago.

Most tweets are not as controversial but as digital identities become harder to erase, and in some cases are stored, this leaves the public open to manipulation according to some activists.

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, an organisation that aims to protect public rights in a digital age, said: “Companies can keep record of users’ buying habits, opinions, behaviour, websites they’ve visited and videos they’ve watched and the information is used to manipulate them.”

In terms of social networking, Mr Killock blames the websites and the companies behind them. He argues that Twitter is known to be publicly open but the trickier question lies with Facebook.

“It gives the impression of being private, but over time it has become more and more publicly available and users do not realise,” he said.

Steven Duttie, an LCC Masters Photojournalism student from Finsbury Park, also admits to self-censoring his social network pages.

“I am very careful about what I put on Facebook as a whole,” he said. “I think it is difficult to undo and Facebook is so wide and you have so many connections that you do not need drunken pictures circulating.”

The 29-year-old admits to regretting a Facebook status he posted three years ago: “I once posted a girl’s name when I was in a debate about whether she was pretty or not. It was an accident and thankfully that is the only social network regret I have.”

Recorded Forever

In early April 2013, the British Library, along with five other libraries, announced that it will have the right to collect, preserve and provide long-term access to the nation’s cultural and intellectual digital content, including everything from Facebook comments and tweets to e-books and journals.

The regulations are an updated version of Legal Deposit, which has existed since 1662 to preserve printed publications, and ensure that digital content will be preserved and made available to future generations of researchers.

“It is vital that individuals have the right to delete data, an issue we are supporting the European Union in fighting.” Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group

Richard Gibby, the Legal Deposit libraries’ manager at the British Library, said: “Our aim is to collect all UK published material systematically and as comprehensively as possible so that it can be preserved for the future.”

Mr Gibby said there was no reason for concern about privacy because the Legal Deposit Libraries would archive only public pages, respecting privacy settings.

“The issue is not with the British Library itself, it is down to the social networks,” said Mr Killock.

Mr Killock, however, stressed: “Social networking users do not realise how much is public and this can leave them vulnerable.”

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