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Major: Political Science
Mentor: Dr. Dana Harsell
Expected Graduation Date: May 2012
Hello my name is Logan Stundal. The McNair’s program goals exemplify my own academic goals. As a Political Science major I intend to pursue graduate studies in Political Science with the goal of obtaining my Ph.D. I hope to utilize that degree to convince a university somewhere to give me a job that involves thinking and reading, two activities I already engage in without pay. My interest in political science germinated early in my college experience. While reading political theory in English literature, one of my fi rst college classes, I developed an interest on why society structured government in the manner it had (my political science classes have not yet satisfied that interest in any substantive way).
In the past half-decade private social networking websites have provided an attractive platform to Internet subscribers seeking connection: connection to their world, their neighbors, co-workers, and family, as well as to complete strangers. These sites provide many conveniences to the subscriber. Subscribers can see the lives of those in their network that have their information permanently published on the Internet. The user accomplishes this by selecting “feeds” of social information to follow. Users also share their own lives with their networks by updating their status, uploading pictures and videos, and leaving messages for their “friends” to read. However, the rapid migration of users to these sites poses a significant threat to privacy and individual autonomy. The subscribers’ rapid dissemination of reputational information across the spectrum of the Internet brings multiple social norms into conflict. Free speech protects the users ability to seamlessly share information about others at the expense of the other’s privacy. Privacy interferes with the subscriber’s right to avoid deception by investigating another user’s life. Finally, undisciplined dissemination of information may instigate digital, libelous accusations that require the protections of legal recourse. The U.S. Constitution enshrines both a fundamental right to free speech and to privacy. This research articulates why subscribers must have the capability to secure their online reputations by having the means to prevent other users from publishing invasive content on social networks. Based on the need for legal protections of privacy on social networks, this research seeks to identify what governmental institutions may defend the user’s information and data. Due to the borderless nature of the Internet, the protection burden falls onto the federal government. What federal executive agencies exist or need to exist to provide U.S. social network users, of which there are many, the protections they need to secure their private information in an online space? What best practices from online social networking businesses may other providers from across the industry emulate in order to afford their users adequate privacy protections? How might government and business conceptualize online, digital privacy in a manner that will provide a foundation for the development of a strong legal and regulatory framework that protects the subscriber as they navigate through an online social network? Ultimately, public policy must seek to regulate the protections afforded to the subscriber in order to reconcile conflict between free speech and privacy.