Private employers, colleges employ privacy-violating policies
By Lisa Conley
Round Table online editor-in-chief
Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or some other social networking website, it feels as though people post every detail of their lives; however, as insignificant as those details may seem, it is still a person’s right to decide with whom they share them. Lately, this right has been questioned as an increasing number of employers and colleges seek access to the Facebook accounts of prospective employees and students.
While the previous practice of having applicants turn over their username and password has been stopped by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), many employers still request that applicants log into their social networking accounts during the interview, granting the interviewee an uncensored view of their online activity.
Although this is completely voluntary, some colleges demand that student athletes “friend” a coach or compliance officer. Others utilize social media monitoring companies to provide coaches and compliance officers with the “reputation scoreboard” and “threat level” of individual athletes.
It is understandable that coaches want to ensure that their players, many of whom may be the recipient of a sports scholarship, are maintaining the highest level of integrity; nevertheless, this blatant invasion of privacy is unprecedented.
Online privacy has continually been a concern for schools at the lower level as well, but a recent incident at Minnewaska Area Middle School has garnered more attention to the issuethan ever before.
A twelve-year-old girl in Minnesota complained about a Hall Monitor and, with another student, discussed sex on her Facebook page. School officials were made aware of the postings and proceeded to question the girl, coercing her into giving them her Facebook username and password.
Read that last sentence again. A twelve-year-old girl was detained, intimidated and interrogated by school officials and a Sheriff’s Deputy. The adults then viewed the private postings of a minor without the consent of her mother.
This may be one of the most obvious violations of the first and fourth amendments, freedom of speech and freedom from illegal searches respectively, which is exactly why the ACLU and the girl’s mother have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
There is no simple solution to this ever-growing problem. On one hand, social networking lends itself to cyber-bullying, which can endanger a student’s life; in those cases it only seems right for school officials to become involved. On the other hand, Facebook and similar social networking sites are the hosts of a myriad of private conversations which are, as the word private implies, not to be monitored by school officials.
As more and more internet privacy issues arise, one thing is certain: in order to avoid frivolous lawsuits, lawmakers will have to determine a standard one way or another.