Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Colleges Have Access to Tool to Monitor Athlete's Web Presence

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) brings the story of a newFacebook monitoring program , called YouDiligence, that can scan college athletes' Facebook or other social networking sites for objectionable content, including profanity, slang alluding to drug use or sexual content and send an automated report to a relevant school administrator at the college. Sounds positively 1984-ish, right?

As FIRE noted, athletes on an athletic scholarship may have contractual terms that include being held to a higher standard. Now whether that higher standard can include censorship is a legal question that would have to be examined. But FIRE raises a more important question?
Even if increased online scrutiny for student-athletes passes constitutional muster, which is by no means clear,ethical questions about the use of a product like YouDiligence remain: Does the online student speech monitored by YouDiligence really fall under the purview of collegiate athletic departments? What degree of privacy can a student-athlete expect to enjoy? Further, if schools feel comfortable monitoring online speech for athletes, what is to stop them from extending their observations to the general student population?
Now, to be perfectly fair, FIRE often raises the slippery slope argument, but in this case they are right to do so here as well.

Technolocially, YouDiligence may not be able to monitor the Facebook or MySpace pages of the entire student body of a major public university, but that does mean that it would be capable in the future. While the University may have a duty to protect the physical security of its student body, does that duty extend to protecting the public from the words of a student? I think not, but in essence that it what the colleges who consider this progrma are doing? If someone is offended by what a student-athlete or any student says in a Facebook site, what duty does the university owed to the offended person? The university would argue none-and they would be right. So, if you look at the situation from another point of view, if the offended person is defamed by the student, who is liable? It won't be the university. So what is the university really doing here? Not protecting its interests, it is censoring students--plain and simple.


Anonymous said...

I am connected to YouDiligence. I think you are not understanding the intended use of YD or the real issues involved.

Neither censorship nor privacy issues are involved. We are talking about PUBLIC forums.

First off, YD does not go behind SN firewalls, or try to break into private networks. In essence, users are rewarded for establishing their profiles as private.

Second, let me ask you a question. If a student goes running though the halls screaming "Let's kill all the kikes and niggers", is it censorship to take this student aside and have a discussion with them? I believe it is educators' duty to confront this student.

Now let's consider that the student is screaming these words in Chinese. It should not change the need to have a discussion with this student. All YD does is give educators the power to understand within the public forum, the world of the web. In the case of Chinese student, opaqueness comes from the language. With the web, it is the sheer amount of data out there that creates the opaqueness.

Lastly, it is the University's interests that are being served. Over time, a University's reputation and endowment will be much better served by good respectful citizens than by inappropriate, rascist assholes. If users are revealing themselves as such within public spaces, why shouldn't a University have the right to say "we do not want to be associated with a person who behaves as such"?

Anonymous said...

We would like to clarify that the person who wrote this post is not part of the company that built, owns and operates YouDiligence(TM) . The opinions of the person expressed while in spirit do match an important part of the mission ( efficient reputation management) -the tone and words used in no way reflect the opinions of GlobalNI Inc. The fact is that people who conduct themselves in certain ways in public are with or without YouDiligence(TM) risking personal and professional consequences- the technology is neutral and defensive not invasive. Additionally there is much false information posted about high exposure individuals and Youdiligence(TM) is also designed to give people situational awareness and empower them to manage exposure that may harm their personal or professional interests. Athletes are not the only people who are exposed. Like any powerful tool much depends on the judgment of the person using it. This debate is necessary and will contribute to the proper use of technology.

Anonymous said...

We at MVP Sports Media Training, have the exclusive rights to market YouDiligence(TM) to the collegiate and education markets would also like to get on the record that the person who made the initial post is not part of MVP. Additionally, the initial post includes tone and words that do not reflect the opinion or mission of MVP. We are about helping student-athletes proactively protect their reputations and athletic departments project a positive image. YouDiligence(TM) can be an effective tool to assist with both in the new media era. We welcome further open discussion and debate about this topic.