Bill would regulate monitoring, storing students' social media posts

School districts in California are paying third-party companies to track and store posts and pictures of students on social media sites.

Districts claim the tracking of public social media posts is done to prevent bullying and youth suicide. However, critics are concerned about how long the data is stored, who has access to the collected data, and why many parents aren't notified of third- party monitoring.

"You have a school district that will pay a third party to collect all these things posted on the Internet," bill sponsor Assem. Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, says. "These are First Amendment-protected posts, these are pictures by teenagers. And then store these on separate servers somewhere that could be hacked. They could be of course the subject of mischief.

"I don't think people would want to know that their taxpayer dollars were being used in those ways, and this bill would aim to try and set some restrictions before a school district could do that."

Third-party companies argue they are only collect public posts. However, a private post can easily be made public by re-sharing without the knowledge or consent of the original poster.

Proponents of the bill recognize the need to take action against bullying, but believe the issue of privacy needs to be addressed first and foremost.

"We want to give parents the ability to weigh in and go before their local school board and say hey, wait a minute, this is a little too intrusive in my child's life. i don't want you taking our vacation pictures and storing them forever on some server somewhere by some company that isn't even the government. it's creepy enough when the government does it, it's even creepier when you're using taxpayer dollars to hire a company to do it," Gatto said.

The measure is before Gov. Brown. If signed into law, school districts will have to notify parents and students before spending taxpayer dollars on third-party data collection. The measure also requires the destruction of the collected data within one year of the student turning 18 or leaving the district."


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