What Is ZeeMee?

At the NACAC Conference, I picked up a brochure for ZeeMee, a website that allows students to "use images, videos, and documents on ANY college application." When a student sets up a ZeeMee page, she gets a URL that she can include in her college applications. Anyone with a link -- in this case, college admissions officers -- can view the student's page and get a better idea of who that student is. Some schools include in their applications a special slot for ZeeMee links, and for those that don't, students can share the link in the "Additional Information" box of the Common App Writing section. So far, so good.

Why I Checked Out ZeeMee

I have one student who is super energetic and comes across great in person. I wondered if ZeeMee might be a good way for this student to showcase personality and accomplishments. Yet I felt uneasy recommending ZeeMee without having taken it for a test drive. I decided to set up my own account.

Setting Up My Account

Account set-up is easy and requires only name, school, email, and password -- plus a click of the "Sign Up" button. Once logged in, I liked what I saw. After just a few minutes, I set up my profile, added a profile photo, and recorded an intro video (recorded before I made the discoveries I describe below). No problem.

Anger Ensues

Then I saw the "Classmates" button. OK, why not? I had entered my school as the high school where I graduated (albeit in 1997), so I clicked "Classmates." Imagine my shock when I was shown profile previews of other students from that high school.

But surely I, a totally random user on ZeeMee, couldn't just click on those previews and see those students' entire profiles? Incorrect. Surely I could, and surely I did.

This is not OK! I don't have many "I can't even..." moments that leave me at a loss for words, but this was one of them. What was going on? I doubt these students know their profiles are visible to everyone else at their school, and I doubt that's what they would want.

ZeeMee's Privacy Policy Problem

Oh, brother. Now I actually had to start reading the terms of service. After reviewing the account sign up screen, I saw the small note: "By clicking 'Sign up' you agree to our terms of use." In Section 1 of the Website Terms and Conditions, there was a link to the Privacy Policy.

Here is the sentence that stood out to me: "If you do not activate any privacy settings, your profile will be publicly available."

So the default choice for students who don't activate privacy settings is that everything is public. What does "everything is public" actually mean? It has a lot to do with the two privacy settings ZeeMee allows users to alter: Discovery and Shoutouts.

Turning Off ZeeMee's Discovery Setting

The first privacy setting is for "Discovery." Discovery is what allows other users to see your profile. According to the ZeeMee website, "Discoverable means that your page can show up in search results on ZeeMee search engines." (Source: ZeeMee FAQ on Profile Discovery Mode) I'm guessing Discovery is how I was able to view other students' profiles when I clicked on the "Classmates" tab. The default setting for Discovery is "on." Unless and until a student clicks on "Settings" and turns Discovery off, her profile is visible.

Turning Off ZeeMee's Shoutouts Setting

The second privacy setting is for "Shoutouts." Shoutouts are messages other users send you. The default setting for Shoutouts is "on." (Source: ZeeMee FAQ on Shoutouts) Unless and until a student clicks on "Settings" and turns Shoutouts off, everyone can see any shoutouts anyone else has left that student. Which is not a big deal at all, because no student anywhere ever said anything remotely inappropriate through social media, right?

ZeeMee vs. Coalition

ZeeMee's default privacy settings make me curious to see whether the Coalition Application's "locker" will be a better option. At the NACAC Coalition Application presentation, one speaker mentioned that the student will have complete control over which people have access to which locker materials. If true, that would be an upgrade over ZeeMee. Right now, ZeeMee lacks that granular level of control.

Recommend with Caution

ZeeMee is a good website with terrible default privacy settings. The default setting for Discovery and Shoutouts should be "off," not "on."

I still ended up suggesting ZeeMee to my student, but I also made sure my student knew to to go to "Settings" and turn Discovery and Shoutouts from "on" to "off."


Jon Perkins holds a B.A. in English from Stanford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He helps students with their college, law school, and medical school applications.