What’s next, e-mails too?

Well, here’s another case for quitting Facebook.  According to MSNBC.com’s Red Tape Chronicles, written by Bob Sullivan, it appears that several different state government agencies, and even universities and colleges (mostly for athletes) are demanding and getting the usernames and passwords to Facebook and Twitter accounts for potential employees and even potential (and current) students.

Employers and Universities demanding FB accounts

The government agency in question is the State of Maryland’s Department of Corrections.  Last year they were requesting that potential employees give them their FB usernames and passwords.  The ACLU put a stop to that. So now they’re trying a different tack – they’re requesting that future employees sign into their account during the interview and let the interviewer scour the interviewee’s wall and photos to see if there’s anything that would make them an employment risk.  While voluntary, most interviewees say yes, because they don’t want to look like they’re hiding anything.

Then there are the universities.  Currently, the Univ of North Carolina requires that “each team have a coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitoring the content of team members’ social networking sites and postings,” it reads. “The athletics department also reserves the right to have other staff members monitor athletes’ posts.”

Now, we all know that the student-athletes (let’s just call them that for the sake of identifying who they are) (a) represent the university (b) often receive full tuition (well, depending on the sport) and (c) are students of college age – they post stupid and silly things sometime.  But . . . if the universities can do this, then what’s to stop them from reading student e-mail?  And, as pointed out in the article, there are issues of liability.  Yeardley Love, the Univ of Virginia lacrosse player who was murdered by her boyfriend, was a student-athlete at UVa.  What if she had posted that her boyfriend had been abusing her?  What if her coach or the athletic administration at UVa were following her posts and were aware of this?  What if they did nothing to prevent him from attacking her?  Would UVa be liable in a civil suit after her death?  You bet they would.

Do the universities really want that kind of responsibility?  Sure, student-athletes are a small proportion of a major university such as UNC-Chapel Hill or UVa or my own alma mater, the U of Florida.  And they do represent the university.  But what’s the next step?  Technically, all students represent their university.  And we have debate teams, the marching band, the student chorale, the student drama organization, ROTC, fraternities, sororities, all part and parcel of the university experience, and all chartered by the unversity   What’s to keep any university from checking into the FB and Twitter accounts of all of those students?