Booze, Budget Cuts, and Politics: A Facebook Tell-All

Every summer, the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO) sponsors a networking bonanza where pols solidify contacts over drinks.  With the budget disaster, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley promised a “sober” MACO outing.  Surely, partying on the state’s dime would seem in poor taste given the state’s continued layoffs and furloughs.  Well, that was the plan, at least in theory.

During the MACO conference, a gubernatorial staffer posted 115 party pics on Facebook, documenting the Gove111px-Party_shooterrnor, Mayor, county executives, and staffers having drinks during the event.  It took little time for the pictures to leak: they now reside on the blog Maryland Politics Watch despite the staffer’s delection of the pictures from his Facebook page.

Why would the staffer post the party pics given the Governor’s admonition for a sober event and given the dour economic outlook in the state?  Guest blogger James Grimmelmann‘s important “Saving Facebook” article, just published in the Iowa Law Review, explains why.  Social network site users have a powerful sense of privacy.  Facebook’s design produces the sense that users engage in private conversations.  Users see their friends’ pictures and names when they send messages and post wall missives, pictures, and videos.  They sense that users are “just like them” and thus would be unlikely to betray them.  We also trust others because double nuclear annihilation lurks.  If we publicize our friends’ pictures and videos beyond the Facebook walls, we can expect the same in turn.  As Grimmelmann convincingly develops, social network site users cannot appreciate the real privacy risks of sharing on Facebook: we are cognitively limited in that way.  Grimmelmann’s piece develops a strategy for addressing these issues and is a must read.

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. “Why would the staffer post the party pics given the Governor’s admonition for a sober event and given the dour economic outlook in the state?”

    Martin O’Malley would never issue an “admonition for a sober event” but instead just issue a press release describing the event that way. He knows the Sun would publish it verbatim.

    And I really can’t get too worked up that “essential” members of my state and local governments were out having a few drinks with other “essential” members of our state and local governments – i.e.: Democratic fundraisers and union lobbyists. That pretty much describes a typical night in Annapolis from January through March.

  2. Nice to hear from you Maryland Conservatarian. Alas, many are worked up about this issue and it sparked my interest because it demonstrated how important James Grimmelmann’s work on understanding privacy expectations on social network sites. Thanks! Danielle

  3. Woody says:

    Danielle,
    I agree – Grimmelmann’s piece is a must read with regard to this issue. I also noticed Patricia Sanchez Abril and Avner Levin have a new article out the issue of privacy, disclosure and social network sites. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list.

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1428422

  4. Woody, I too have Patricia and Avner’s piece at the ready. Great to hear from you!