At a time when college athletic programs are listening to students’ Facebook and Twitter feeds for words like “panties,” California is poised to become the second state to put a stop to the practice.
The state’s Senate this week sent a unanimous bill to Governor Jerry Brown that would forbid schools from asking students’ to provide their social media user names and passwords.
The issue of social media and student privacy bubbled over again this week after the Courrier-Journal reported that athletes at Kentucky universities must agree to install “monitoring” software on their personal accounts. The software listens to see if students use hundreds of words like “panties,” “Arab,” “fight,” and “pony” (slang for crack) on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or YouTube. If the software hears these bad words, it can alert coaches or administrators.
According to lawyer Brad Shear, who helped draft the California legislation, companies like UDiligence and Varsity Monitor are marketing the software as a way to keep an eye on their students. Shear added that an executive behind UDiligence is touting the software as “the new drug testing,” and said the California bill will protect both students and tax payers.
“It protects schools from social media snake oil salesmen and it protects students privacy too,” sia.
Four states in the country have bills to protect students’ social media privacy, according to Shear, but Delaware is the only one so far sign a bill into law. California’s governor has until September 30 to sign that state’s bill.
A similar drama is also playing out in the workplace context as states like Maryland and Washington seek to forbid employers from demanding workers turn over their Facebook passwords. At the federal level, Congress is proposing “SNOPA” (Social Networking and Online Protection Act) to protect employees.
The school and employee monitoring may already be illegal in light of existing legislation and the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, said Shear. But he thinks the new laws are likely to stop institutions from collecting social media accounts in the first place.
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