Troubling revelations surfaced over the weekend that the Orange County school district is now monitoring all school-children's messages on social media sites in a supposed effort to curb cyberbullying, crime on campus and suicide.
But the move raises serious concerns about privacy and officials' ability to monitor the communications of minors. It also raises ethical concerns about just what standard we should hold children to, who are not adults and therefor not making decisions that are as well reasoned as fully developed adults.
The district is using new software that analyzes social media messages sent to and from its campuses. More worryingly the software allows the individual school district employees to search messages posted on various sites including Facebook and Twitter for key words that might indicate trouble.
They could also use the information to learn intimate details about their students, which could be abused in a variety extremely dangerous ways.
While Chief Operations Officer Michael Eugene said the program is focused on "prevention and early intervention" he did not have an answer for who will have access to the highly sensitive chat records and what the vetting process for those individuals would be.
Such software highlights the need for strong encryption around internet communications, as organizations like school boards, who lack proper controls around who gets access to confidential information and how such access is tracked, are ill-equipped to handle the responsibility that comes with collecting and storing such powerful data on such vulnerable people.