Monday, March 26, 2012

Schools May Need a Search Warrant To Access Their Student-Athletes' Personal Password Protected Electronic Accounts

According to the Penn State Daily Collegian, Penn Sate Police seized illegal drugs and paraphernalia from the home of one of their football players. Police had entered the home of a current and former student-athlete to investigate a break-in. Upon realizing there may be illegal drugs, it appears the police obtained a search warrant.

Since in the real world a search warrant is generally required to obtain evidence in one's real home, a search warrant is also generally required in the digital world to search one's password protected digital home. In order for a public school to obtain access to the password protected personal social media and digital accounts (non-school issued) of their student-athletes they may need a court order.

A public school may not require a student to utilize the services of UDiligence, Varsity Monitor, Centrix Social, or any other social media monitoring company in order to keep his or her scholarship and may not retaliate against a student for refusing to provide access absent a court order.

Therefore, if a student at a public school refuses to provide UDiligence, Varsity Monitor, Centrix Social, other social media monitoring companies, or school employees their personal social media or personal digital account information and the school punishes the student in any manner for refusing to do so the student may have multiple causes of action against the school. The 1st, 4th, and 5th amendments along with the Stored Communications Act, the Computer Fraud Abuse Act, and multiple state laws may be implicated in social media monitoring.

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