Young people who might want to delete an embarrassing or controversial post to social media currently have few options, especially if that young person’s school monitors, collects, and keeps such postings on separate hard drives, forever. Legislation by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) would ensure that information collected by school districts about its students’ social media activities cannot come back to hurt students years later. Gatto’s bill, AB 1442, passed the Assembly today by a vote of 74-0.
The legislation addresses a growing problem in the social media-driven era: school districts, hoping to identify and prevent bullying, teen suicide, and school violence, are using taxpayer dollars to collect social-media information from students and others. The data collected ranges from statements and opinions, to personal photos, and even videos posted by teens online (or any other member of the public who mentions a school in a post). While the data collection serves a noble purpose, current law does not address how long the data may be kept, when it must be destroyed, or whether parents are made aware of the collection policies.
“When taxpayer dollars are being used by a government agency to monitor minor students, parents have a right to know what that data is being used for and how long it will be stored,” said Gatto. “Imagine the harm that could be caused if a hacker, mean-spirited employee, or even a careless IT worker were to expose a database of all of the things a person said or did as a teenager.”
AB 1442 would create reasonable standards of privacy when school districts collect and analyze, or contract with a third-party entity to collect and analyze, data that students post to social-media websites, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The measure requires that parents be notified of the collection policies, and that students be given the opportunity to examine information collected about them. Finally, it requires that any such information be destroyed within one year of the student turning eighteen years of age or leaving the district.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.