Students at Oxford University face fines of £100 and may be prevented from graduating, after university authorities accessed photos of misbehaviour on the social networking website Facebook.

Traditionally, students at this ancient seat of learning celebrate the end of their final-year exams by parading around the streets of Oxford in white-tie and academic dress, quaffing champagne from the bottle and covering each other with flour. But this year proctors have decided to crack down, taking the unexpected step of seeking evidence of wrongdoing on the internet.

[Unexpected, because most students are under the impression that university proctors are all at least 150 years old, speak only in Middle Italian and are completely out of touch with the modern world. To which some might suggest that a bunch of haw-hawing Little Lord Fauntleroys regurgitating a couple of essays about Proust then spraying champagne on innocent passers-by are the ones who are stuck in a time warp. But I digress.]

According to The Guardian, one alleged flour-chucker has called foul play. Third-year mathematics and philosophy student Alex Hill claims the pictures she received via email as evidence of her misdemeanours were protected by Facebook's privacy settings.

"My privacy settings were such that only my friends and students in my networks could view my photos," she said. "It's quite unbelievable and I am very pissed off."

No need to swear, Alex.

A spokesperson for the university has countered that proctors actually found the photos on public pages. "There's no subterfuge of pretending to be someone you aren't," the spokesman said.

Who's telling the truth? It's hard to know (or care), but it's a sorry tale, we're sure you'll agree. Maybe now these college boys will realise that you should never put any incriminating documents on public websites, privacy settings or no privacy settings. That's something their 'book smarts' can't teach them.

[Via The Guardian. Also covered by The BBC.]