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Rutgers suicide raises questions on privacy

October 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
On the Rutgers University campus Friday, many students wore black in remembrance of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, the student who apparently was driven to suicide by a type of bullying only possible in the digital age. According to authorities, Clementi's sexual encounter with another man in his dorm room was secretly shot by his roommate and another student on a webcam -- and streamed live on the Internet.

It's unknown how many voyeurs actually tuned in, but a day later Clementi, an accomplished violinist, posted his final thought on his Facebook page by simply writing, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

Clementi's death has fueled the debate over privacy and the abuse of technology.

"It is the kids that would never do this in person," said Regina Lewis, an Internet trend expert at AOL. "Then they get behind the computer, and (it happens) because they are tech savvy, the anonymity and underdeveloped sense of empathy or, frankly, maturity."

The Rutger's tragedy comes on the same week "The Social Network" opens in theaters nationwide.

The movie about Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg is bound to attract the college crowd, which makes up a large part of the website's 550 million users.

News of the Rutger's suicide spread to college campuses across the country. But for some tech-savvy University of Southern California students, privacy on social networking sites is of little concern.

"Nowadays having a Facebook account is like having a bank account," said one student. "Everybody has it."