More States Pass Laws to Protect Students’ Social Media Rights

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College Social Media Policies May Violate Students' Right To Privacy. As a result, Precise Advice LLC offers free information about legal privacy resources for educational, medical and financial organizations.

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Are you a college student with big plans for “Winter Break”?

Well you better think twice about sharing those wild vacation photos with Facebook friends or Twitter followers this year.

Many colleges are requiring current students and "enrollees" to sign social media policies that grant college officials access to their students’ social media accounts.

In some cases, officials are even installing spying software in cell phones.

For those groups of college officials implementing these controversial rules, there are literally no exceptions for monitoring the password protected social media accounts of their students. College student athletes, who are already bound by serious contracts with their universities, were in many cases the first students forced to sign these new policies.

But according to Maryland attorney, Bradley Shear, who has written extensively on social media and students, invading the social media privacy rights of students is becoming an epidemic among colleges.

Following months of debate, state legislators have already begun to crack-down on attempts to invade students’ social media privacy rights.

Delaware Governor, Jack Markell, recently signed in to law the Higher Education Privacy Act, which prohibits university officials from forcing students to disclose any digitally protected information about their social networking site accounts.

“This bill is a win for the personal privacy rights of students,” Shear said in an email to the Los Angeles Times, after the social media privacy law was passed the Delaware legislature. “Since schools generally do not have a duty to monitor their students' off campus activities in the real world, they shouldn't have a duty to monitor their students' off campus digital activities.”

Still, the law contains a huge exception for health and safety that gives school public safety officials the ability to monitor student social media when they have a, “...reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity”, or to conduct an investigation, inquiry or determination conducted pursuant to an academic institution’s threat assessment policy or protocol.

Earlier this year, California Governor, Jerry Brown, also signed a bill into law that prohibits schools from requesting or demanding a student’s password, or forcing students to provide school officials access to personal accounts.

As many as 13 other states have similar laws under consideration.

For more information about student privacy rights and the rights of educational institutions to access student social media accounts, visit the Precise Advice LLC Privacy Resource Center.

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L. Edward Street
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