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Minnesota Teen Wins Settlement After School Takes Facebook Password 367

Posted by timothy
from the mandatory-everything dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes "A Minnesota school district has agreed to pay $70,000 to settle a lawsuit that claimed school officials violated a student's constitutional rights by viewing her Facebook and email accounts without permission. The lawsuit, filed in 2012 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, alleged that Riley Stratton, now 15, was given detention after posting disparaging comments about a teacher's aide on her Facebook page, even though she was at home and not using school computers. After a parent complained about the Facebook chat, the school called her in and demanded her password. With a sheriff deputy looking on, she complied, and they browsed her Facebook page in front of her, according to the report. 'It was believed the parent had given permission to look at her cellphone,' Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt said Tuesday. But Schmidt said the district did not have a signed consent from the parent. That is now a policy requirement, he said.'" Asks schwit1, "How is this not a violation of the CFAA?" It sounds like the school was violating Facebook's Terms of Service, too.
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Minnesota Teen Wins Settlement After School Takes Facebook Password

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  • by Thornburg (264444) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:44AM (#46592665)

    The summary said she gave them her password. That sounds like permission.

    A 13 year old can't give permission.

    Just like she can't give permission for the school to take her on a field trip or to go off campus for lunch, she can't give the school permission to invade her privacy. Only her parents can.

    In some ways, this is really stupid. In other ways, it makes lots of sense. We shouldn't really trust most 13-15 year olds to make intelligent, informed decisions most of the time.

  • Felony Charges? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by davydagger (2566757) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:50AM (#46592731)
    > It sounds like the school was violating Facebook's Terms of Service, too.

    Thats a felony under federal law now. Aaron Swartz was facing 15 years for something similar.

    Oh, and the reason why we don't have a free democratic nation, and the reason why you don't see adults dissent, is because it is beaten out of us as children. We don't have a school system which produces free thinking citizens as adults.

    We can pretend this is an isolated incident and not the trend of a large society.

    This also demonstates the need to post either anonymously or pseudonymlsy. Its to prevent authority figures from fucking you
  • Re: obligatory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:51AM (#46592747)

    It disgusts me how school officials act like they are prison wardens and the children they care for treated as though they have no rights.

    Between things like private information gathering on Facebook like this, to the webcam viewing scandal a few years ago, to the teacher forcing a student to strip, there seems to be a serious problem with the attitude being brought into schools by officials.

  • by phorm (591458) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:08AM (#46592895) Journal

    she can't give the school permission to invade her privacy

    Especially when there are school officials and a cop hanging over her shoulder and threatening her. Not only was it not approved by parents, but it was coerced under threat.

  • by swb (14022) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:25AM (#46593041)

    The Minneapolis StarTribune had this article and what troubled me was this passage:

    "As part of the settlement, Minnewaska school policies now address electronic devices for the first time.

    The new rules say electronic records and passwords created off-campus can only be searched if thereâ(TM)s a reasonable suspicion they will uncover violations of school rules. Enhanced teacher training was also part of the settlement."

    What bothers me about this is that there seems to be this idea that there are "school rules" that can conceivable cover ANY off-campus behavior, actions or activities. The idea of "reasonable suspicion" as being the grounds for searching anything seems to just make this seem all the more egregious.

    As far as I'm concerned, the power of a school administrator extends to the boundaries of the school campus and only off-campus to the extent that the students are participating in some school-organized event (ie, playing school sports off-site or being on a field trip). You can't just say that because someone is a student in a school that you can create rules that extend past the schoolhouse door and empower you to utilize coercive force (police power) to enforce them.

    I'm sure much of this thinking has been driven by the motivation to cut underage drinking by making it a violation of school policies and thus eliminating eligibility for sports or activities.

  • Re:Terms of Service (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:44AM (#46593201) Journal
    There is a concept of "Tortious interference with contract rights". If you are aware that a contract is in place, and convince someone to break the terms of the contract you can be held liable. And the standard of proof is a lot lower than criminal law.

    It's pretty unlikely that the school was completely unaware there were terms and conditions, and they really should have considered the possibility they were in breach of these terms.
  • Re:They WERE... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tompaulco (629533) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @12:13PM (#46593493) Homepage Journal

    ... apparently people are still using Facebook.

    Well, they were two years ago. From TFA:

    Riley was 13, in sixth grade, when she posted on Facebook two years ago that she hated a school hall monitor because she was mean.

    Looks like she violated the Facebook ToS already by not being old enough to have a Facebook account.

  • Re:In other news ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @05:27PM (#46596639)

    > The USA Federal Government has stated that not having a Facebook account is one way to identify a terrorist.
    Bullshit.

    Not bullshit. The OP is referring to a leaked DHS or FBI powerpoint presentation where they listed things that might be indicators that someone's a "terrorist", and not having a Facebook account was one of the bullet-points. Here's an article for you. [techdirt.com]

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