Two Maryland lawmakers recently submitted a bill aimed at protecting the privacy rights of student-athletes when it comes to social media (full text of the Senate bill can be read here, and the House bill here). Social Media law attorney Bradley Shear had this to say about the bill. It should be noted that this bill has not been passed and, if it does, will only impact Maryland. If it does pass, however, expect similar laws to be quickly introduced and passed around the country.
To summarize the text from the Senate website, it is designed for:
Prohibiting an institution of postsecondary education from requiring a student or an applicant for admission to provide access to a personal account or service through an electronic communications device, to disclose any user name, password, or other means for accessing specified accounts or services through an electronic communications device, or to install on specified electronic communications devices software that monitors or tracks electronic content; etc.
As you can imagine, this has created a significant amount of discussion, from university compliance offices to The New York Times.
It has also become a significant topic of conversation between us and universities. Whether from a current client, a potential client, or even programs that are utilizing competitors, concerns are being voiced.
In an effort to be transparent, I want to address a couple of the questions we get asked most often.
Are you, as a firm that monitors the social media activity of collegiate student-athletes, against this bill?
Absolutely not. In fact I’m very much for this bill. I won’t go into the specifics of our business practices or technology, but I will say that the privacy of student-athletes is something I take very seriously. Through FieldTrack, our social media monitoring service, the private information of student-athletes is not only never collected, it is never accessed. Never.
If it passes, what impact will this have on your monitoring service?
It would not have any impact on the way we operate FieldTrack. From the research I’ve done, and through my conversations with Mr. Shear, it appears that Fieldhouse Media is the only firm offering social media monitoring services for collegiate athletic programs that will not be impacted by the passing of this bill. Never will the word “illegal” be attached to anything we do.
We do not force student-athletes to follow/friend us. We do not require that they hand over their usernames and passwords. We do not require that they install a 3rd party app onto their social media profiles. We aren’t creating a “digital archive” of their online history. We aren’t about creating a culture of fear.
Honestly, law or no law, all of those things kind of creep me out. During our social media education sessions, we advise student-athletes not to give their password to anybody, not to friend anybody they don’t know, and to understand the privacy settings on each social network in order to better protect themselves. With that in mind, why would we then turn around and require them to do the exact opposite, in order that we might monitor them? It simply doesn’t make sense.
So you aren’t doing away with your monitoring service?
In a word, no. FieldTrack will still be offered to complement our education services.
I’ve written before that monitoring is necessary. The need for social media monitoring won’t go away. The key is to combine it with education. I believe that Fieldhouse Media far and away has the best to offer on both of those fronts.
Everything we do, from our social media education sessions to our monitoring service, is to help student-athletes make better decisions online.
It’s that simple.
If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.