Tuesday, August 21, 2012

California passes student social media privacy legislation

California has passed Senate Bill 1349. The bill is a win for California schools, taxpayers, students, and prospective students. If Governor Brown signs the bill it may help increase enrollment in California schools because it signals to the entire world that California is a leader in digital privacy and common sense technology law.

The legislation does not appear to have any implementation costs for California and may save California schools and taxpayers millions of dollars per year. According to the New York Times, it may cost approximately $10,000 per year to social media monitor a small segment of a school's student population. There appears to be more than 150 4-year post secondary academic institutions based in California. Therefore, if you multiply 150 x $10,000 this may save California 4-year post secondary schools at least $1.5 million dollars per year. This does not factor in some of the potential savings from not needing increased cyber liability insurance policies, legal fees to review the social media monitoring contracts between the schools and monitoring companies, and the cost to defend against negligent social media monitoring lawsuits or the failure to social media monitor lawsuits. Overall, the cost savings to California post secondary schools and taxpayers may exceed $5 million per year.

Any company that approaches NCAA sanctioned schools to sell social media monitoring services is selling a legal liability time bomb. Yesterday, there was a very troubling Louisville Courier-Journal report that stated that the University of Kentucky via a company called Centrix Social was social media monitoring some of its students and flagging them for using the term "Arab" or "Muslim" online. Centrix Social was recently acquired by Varsity Monitor who according to Deadspin.com appears to have some ethical challenges.

If SB 1349 is enacted, it may protect California schools from millions of dollars in additional compliance and regulatory costs, and millions of dollars in potential legal liability costs associated with social media related lawsuits.

(Full Disclosure: I advised California Sen. Yee's office on this legislation.)

To learn more about these issues you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.

Copyright 2012 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.