Online social network monitor raises privacy issues

Imagine your school receiving notifications every time you post or comment negatively on Facebook or when you post an alarming picture on Instagram. The company Geo Listening is doing just that.

This company was hired by Glendale, Calif., schools this year and according to Glendale High junior Chris Chung, no students were informed by the school that this company even existed. Students only found out when a story about it came out in the Glendale News Press.

Geo Listening is a program that monitors social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine to detect any signs of cyber-bullying, suicide intents, truancy or drug/alcohol abuse. This company is being hired by school districts throughout the nation with the intent of making students’ social network experience more positive.

Although this program sounds like it can actually make a difference in schools, how would it work if it were implemented here at Carmel High?

“The lucky thing about Carmel is that we are a small community so problems with cyber-bullying and other types of issues students have usually comes to our attention without the need of looking into our students’ social networks,” assistant principal Martin Enriquez says. “Also, I see the benefits, but we as a schools need to respect the privacy of the innocent. I would not be comfortable with hiring this company.”

But CHS senior Nick Mandurrago thinks this type of program could actually be a help for some students who need it.

“I don’t think this company would personally benefit me in any way because I don’t witness much cyber-bullying or have anyone bullying me, but I can see what the company is trying to do, and I think at some schools it is probably strongly needed,” Mandurrago says.

According to Chris Frydrych, the founder of Geo Listening, this company is not a tool to spy on students but more of an eye-opener for kids to keep their social networking use positive and for them to realize how accessible their posts are.

“This is a complete invasion of student’s privacy,” senior Alon Yoeli contends. “What happens at school is the school’s problem, but outside of school it really is none of their business what students do.”

Not only do Carmel students have an uneasy feeling about Geo Listening, teachers have this feeling as well.

English teacher Hans Schmidt notes, “Their intent is to stop cyber-bullying, but what is next? Where do we draw the line? I am not a believer of in monitoring anyone’s Internet use other than sexual predators trying to seduce kids, but other than that, I’m not comfortable with it.”

According to Frydrych, posts on social networks are negative and full of adult content, and the goal should be helping kids stay kids as long as possible.

History teacher Bill Schrier, a former prosecuting attorney, thinks this may be an intrusive program, but at the same time says it sounds beneficial.

“If a student publishes something on a social network and indicates they are going to hurt themselves or others, it would be negligent not to have something to report it,” Schrier says. “The only thing unbalanced is that students’ safety outweighs the students’ privacy concerns, and I would support that. If a student is going to make things public then I think it is our duty to protect them.”

-Elexis Perez