Using Facebook profiles as a source for stories

A piece by Slate “outing” Rudy Giuliani’s daughter apparent support for Barack Obama once again raises questions about Facebook.

Slate reports that that according to the 17-year-old Caroline Giuliani’s Facebook profile, she’s supporting Barack Obama, rather than her father, for president.

The magazine was able to see her profile as it was not locked, meaning that anyone with access to the Harvard or Trinity School networks could see her detailed profile.

CJR has questioned the ethics of what Slate did:

For Slate to run a silly little item about it, and expose a 17 year-old to public ridicule like this is more than unnecessary. Some might even call it tasteless.

In some ways, Caroline Guiliani bears some responsibility for leaving her profile open to others in the same network. The problem is that this is the whole point of social networking, sharing your life with others. Is it unreasonable to expect a degree of privacy, even when you are opening yourself up to a wider network?

Part of the issue is what Danah Boyd has called intended audiences. When someone posts information on a social networking site, they may not intend for the material to be consumed beyond the intended audience of their friends.

I doubt that Caroline Guiliani expected journalists to be examining her Facebook profile for clues as to her political leanings.