I propose a new rule. Until a city/state/province/village/hamlet/nation finds itself represented by a government filled with the type of folks that can send an email without asking their grandkids for help, hands off anything to do with technology and privacy, old timer. As supporting evidence, I submit this problematic bit of Illinois’ new cyberbullying legislation, which came into force at the start of 2015.
KTVI-TV reported that the law was already making some parents deeply uncomfortable. That’s because one of its stipulations is troubling.
Indeed, this week Illinois parents began receiving a letter from school authorities informing them that their children’s social media passwords may now have to be handed over, as part of school discipline. Motherboard reports that it obtained one of these letters. It reads, in part:
School authorities may require a student or his or her parent/guardian to provide a password or other related account information in order to gain access to his/her account or profile on a social networking website if school authorities have reasonable cause to believe that a student’s account on a social networking site contains evidence that a student has violated a school disciplinary rule or procedure.
You might imagine that this stipulation only applies to school computers and activity on school premises. It does not. The schools may ask for passwords and search on the basis of any posting by a student at any time and in any place.
And who will decide what is reasonable cause? Leigh Lewis, superintendent of Triad Community Schools Unit District 2, told Motherboard that if someone didn’t cooperate, there might be trouble. Not detention, criminal charges.
Yes, if Junior or Junior’s mom and dad don’t let the school and by extension the State invade his privacy because they feel like invading it that day, they’ll drag all of ’em through the courts where they’ll be forced to hire expensive lawyers to battle for basic human rights and common sense, perhaps winding up with hefty fines or even jail time should they run up against a judge and/or jury who’s brain functions on a level similar to that of Uncle or maybe I should say Grandpa Sam’s. How about no? Does no work for you?
So far nobody has run afoul of it, but I kinda can’t wait until somebody does, sues over it and wins. Once school boards start handing out 5 or 6 figure settlements hand over fist, we’ll see how important it really is for them to snoop through little Billy’s fishing trip photos as part of their own fishing expeditions.