Californian School District Hires Firm to Track Student Posts on Social Networks

Privacy and security have been steaming-hot topics these past few months, and as evidenced in comment sections around the Web, they're topics not everyone can agree on. This latest story, of a school district in Glendale, California, is likely to have the same divided opinion.

To help keep an eye on student goings-on for the sake of "student safety", the Glendale Unified School District has hired a company called Geo Listening that specializes in monitoring the social networking accounts of students. The company is clear to state that it monitors only public posts, which would make sense given private posts would be (or should be) inaccessible to them.

Geo Listening works not by having real people actively monitor these accounts, but by using software that triggers when certain keywords are discovered. According to the school district's Superintendent Richard Sheehan, the ultimate goal is to see "if a student is considering harming themselves, [or] harming someone else."

These social networks are effectively monitored all the time, even when kids are not at school, and it's mentioned that "We do pay more attention to the school computers", which makes it sound like those have been equipped with their own monitoring software (possibly software that Geo Listening provides).

Because all of the posts that Geo Listening targets are visible to the public, they're in effect public domain. Thus, no legal action could come against the company, or the school district, for "spying", or something of the nature. Still, concerns of privacy are going to arise from this, because even if your posts are public, it doesn't necessarily mean that you want to be digitally stalked - even by a piece of computer software. On the upside, it's being said that this sort of monitoring has helped thwart incidents in the past, so there's definitely pros to help offset some of the cons.