Tuesday, February 25

Brookdale Newsroom

Filmmaker Cullen Hoback Talks Digital Privacy

Cullen Hoback, director of the widely acclaimed 2013 documentary “Terms and Conditions May Apply,” gave a presentation to dozens of students and community members in the Student Life Center on March 24 as part of this year’s Spring Lecture Series and 2015 Career and Internship Week.

In between clips of the film – which explains how companies and government agencies are able to access reams of digital data and personal information without notice – Hoback explained why Brookdale students should be concerned about their presence online.

“A lot of people believe that they have nothing to hide, so they just share everything,” Hoback said. “But you may not know what you have to hide until it’s too late.”

As an example, Hoback pulled up the social media accounts belonging to two students in the audience who had pre-registered for the talk. To the students’ chagrin, Hoback pulled up every embarrassing photo, Facebook post, tweet and comment the students had recently made, explaining how easy it is for potential employers and even local authorities to access such information.


Filmmaker Cullen Hoback searches Lukas Rykart’s browser history during a presentation in the Student Life Center on March 24.

“Things that are legal today might not be legal tomorrow. The things that you are comfortable with might not be something that other people are comfortable with,” he said.

“You would be shocked what can be used against you. Things that you don’t think you have to hide can actually cost you a job. They can put you in prison.”

Other students courageously volunteered to answer some shockingly personal questions pulled from a dating website, which Hoback said can be used to collect and store users’ personal data for sale to third parties.

Another student, Lukas Rykart, bravely volunteered to let Hoback navigate his online browser history in front of the audience.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said as Hoback opened up his account information. “At least I don’t think I do.”

In the end, Hoback recommended that all students take more control of their social media accounts and online profiles. Some tips include:

  • Search for old, unused accounts and posts that you may have forgotten about. Delete them if possible.
  • Create a fake social media account and view your own account with it. It will give you a good idea of how others see your profile.
  • Don’t share anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with a potential employer, regardless of your privacy settings. Privacy settings can change overnight, and potential employers will often pay companies to access your data without your knowledge.

Hoback also recommended that students consider using secure internet browsers, private cell phone apps and other software to avoid having their data accessed and sold by third parties. More information and specific recommendations are available on the Terms and Conditions May Apply website.

“After this presentation, I’m definitely thinking about switching browsers at least,” Rykart said. “It’s kind of scary. I definitely didn’t think all of that was possible.”

The presentation was co-hosted by Brookdale’s Office of Student Life & Activities and the Career Services division as part of Career and Internship Week.

On Thursday, March 25, Career Services and the ALPFA Business Club will host a Career and Internship Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the BREC building. On Friday, March 26 they will host a LinkedIn workshop in Larrison Hall.

For more information or to learn more about upcoming career services events and programs, click here.

Check out more photos of Cullen Hoback’s presentation here.