Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Social Media Monitoring NCAA Student-Athletes May Create Legal Liability in Excess of $100 Million Dollars

In the past 6 months, California, Michigan, Delaware, and New Jersey have enacted laws banning school athletic departments from requesting or requiring their student-athletes verify their social media/digital media usernames/passwords and/or install cyberstalking software onto their personal accounts or devices.  Many other states along with Congress have introduced legislation to ban these practices to protect schools from legal liability and to protect the personal privacy of students.   

Unfortunately, some companies/"social media experts" are approaching NCAA schools and intentionally misleading athletic departments about their experience, their understanding of NCAA compliance, and their knowledge of state and federal law.  Some of these companies may claim that their "social media monitoring" services "respect privacy", or "promote compliance", or they "never ask for passwords" or that their services"facilitate education".  These claims are misleading and may create tremendous legal liability for NCAA athletic programs that engage any of these companies.

The legal liability of engaging a social media monitoring company to digitally track a program's student-athletes or employees may be tens of millions of dollars. Anyone who disagrees with this analysis needs to review the facts about the Penn State Jerry Sandusky scandal.  Emails from 10 plus years ago destroyed the careers of several well respected members of the Penn State administration/faculty and may cost the school more than $100 million dollars in fines/legal fees/judgements/settlements, etc.. 

Digital evidence (emails) was key in the Freeh Report which the NCAA appears to have relied on to levy a $60 million dollar fine against Penn State.  The total cost of this terrible scandal to Penn State may reach $150-$200 million dollars.  Absent the digital evidence, the Freeh Report may have reached a different conclusion, the NCAA may not have had the evidence to support a fine and other sanctions, and plaintiffs may have a hard time proving Penn State knew about Mr. Sandusky's behavior.  

Do schools and athletic department employees want to monitor and archive potential evidence that may be discoverable and utilized against them in lawsuits?  The bottom line is that NCAA athletic departments should not engage services that may harm their interests and put them in a position that may create tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in legal liability.  

To learn more about these issues you may contact me at

Copyright 2013 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved. 

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