In the Ohio rape case involving two football players, social media both added to the humiliation of the victim and helped prove her case. The defendants and their friends had recorded the attack and later joked about it on a video. The case didn't come to light until the girl read text messages among friends and saw a photo of herself naked.
There are general security concerns, too. F-Secure, a cybersecurity company, said some new social networking services have become targets for spreading malicious hacker software and propagating scams.
In January, the FBI arrested a man in Los Angeles, Karen "Gary" Kazaryan, 27, of Glendale, Calif., on charges that he hacked into hundreds of social media and email accounts, including Facebook and Skype, and found nude photos and personal passwords that women had stored online. He allegedly used the photos to try to coerce women into disrobing for him via Skype and threatened to post their private photos to their Facebook accounts if they refused to comply, according to the indictment.
Online services also routinely collect personal data, such as a person's birthdate or the location of their phone, and they commonly share the information with third parties for marketing. While a new rule by the Federal Trade Commission this year is aimed at keeping advertisers from tracking kids younger than 13, most social media services require that a user specify he is at least 13, exempting the account from the tougher privacy restrictions.
Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., co-chairman of a House caucus on privacy issues, said legislation should give kids under 15 the right to delete photos or texts that wind up elsewhere online. The prospect, however, is unlikely in a Congress dominated by debates on federal spending and gun control, and raises practical questions about how such a law could be implemented or enforced.