Students, workers ordered to surrender Facebook passwords

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 17:58 EDT
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A woman uses a computer to browse Facebook. Photo: Shutterstock, all rights reserved.
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Student athletes with the University of North Carolina, along with corrections officers in Maryland, have been subjected to an odd new policy that seems to be spreading to various employers throughout the country: social media monitoring that watches accounts from the inside.

Speaking to MSNBC’s Bob Sullivan, attorney Bradley Shear condemned the practice, which is increasingly being outsourced to companies that generate reports on individuals whose social media accounts they’re asked to monitor. Companies like UDiligence and Varsity Monitor offer “threat level” monitoring services for colleges, saying that they help protect athletes’ “personal brand,” along with the leagues.

“I can’t believe some people think it’s OK to do this,” he reportedly said. “Maybe it’s OK if you live in a totalitarian regime, but we still have a Constitution to protect us.”

Colleges which monitor their athletes’ accounts could also become liable if they ever obtain advance knowledge of a potential threat to one of their students but fail to act, Shear added. That may be enough to prompt some to end the practice, out of fear that they could one day be on the hook for vast sums.

Maryland’s Department of Corrections, as well, stopped asking applicants for their Facebook usernames and passwords after a complaint last year by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The department later admitted that it had scanned the Facebook pages of nearly 2,700 applicants.

“It’s not a far leap from reading people’s Facebook posts to reading their email,” Shear added. “As a society, where are we going to draw the line?”

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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