California school district uses spyware to monitor student social media accounts

How students connect. Do they have a right to privacy?

An Orange County school district is using new software to spy on their students social media accounts, to "help prevent crime". Students are calling the efforts an invasion of privacy.

The school district has obtained a new social media program called SnapTrends, which will allow them to monitor student's Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare, Vine, and Instagram accounts when used on campus.

The software works by looking for keywords being used within a predetermined area based on GPS locations. The social media conversations can be monitored in real-time as they stream in and a security team can zoom in on users it views as influential.

"This information builds a clear view of social conversations when and where they unfold, the influencers driving those conversation, and why; ultimately giving you the ability to make more informed decisions and take more effective actions." the SnapTrends website explains.

The district claims that they will be using the software to prevent and stop cyber bullying, keep an eye out for students who are a risk to themselves or others, as well as criminal activities. They will receive assistance from local law enforcement in monitoring their students.

When questioned about privacy concerns, Orange County Public Schools Senior Director of Safety and Security Doug Tripp ignores that issue and just reiterates that it is to "protect our children." These privacy issues come at a time when Southern California schools have also been under scrutiny for their militarized school police forces.

The nearby Los Angeles School Police Department had received an MRAP via the Department of Defense 1033 program and was pushed to return it after a wave of harsh criticism. They have also been in possession of three grenade launchers since 2001, and 61 M-16 assault rifles. San Diego School Police are also in possession of an MRAP.