Friday, March 10, 2017

Bill to fight cyberbullying would strip students, teachers of privacy protections

Bill to fight cyberbullying would strip students, teachers of privacy protections:

Bill would strip privacy protections from California students and teachers

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In  2015  Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that prohibited California police and other state agencies from searching our phones and online accounts without our consent, a court order, or showing it is an emergency.
That measure, the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, affords Californians basic Fourth Amendment protections when it comes to digital data.
But a bill now before the state legislature would take away those rights from students and staff at California’s public schools.
The legislation, Assembly Bill 165, would “end the application of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to a local educational agency, as defined, or an individual acting for or on behalf of a local educational agency.” The bill defines educational agencies as county offices of education, school districts and charter schools.
It has long been illegal to search through someone’s personal filing cabinet or the hard drives of their home or office PC without a valid court order, but until the electronic privacy act was passed, law enforcement could obtain access to someone’s web-based email account or cloud storage service on the theory that any data left on a server is “abandoned.”
That theory dates back to the time when off-premise servers were used simply to transmit data from one machine to another but, today, many of us store our most intimate personal data on services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive and most people now rely on cloud-based servers to store and access their email and even their diaries and personal photographs. For most people, almost everything stored on cell phones is also backed up to cloud servers.
An article by student journalists Evalyn Li and Andrew Zhao in Gunn High School’s student newspaper, The Oracle, explained the pros and cons of AB 165. It quoted a Palo Alto school official that “the school district would exercise the power under this law for the safety of its students,” and another saying that he “believes that this legislation is meant to protect students from threats such as cyberbullying.” The same article also quoted a student leader who argued that if a school wants to search a student’s phone “there should be a warrant only because staff shouldn’t just get into other people’s personal property.”
In a blog post, the Student Press Law Center raised the issue of the bill’s potential impact on student journalists. The organization worries that, despite federal law protecting against “most newsroom searches and seizures,” this bill could “cause school or campus police to believe that there is no longer such protection, since there has never been an explicit ruling about how this applies to student journalists.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argues that “AB 165 would destroy the privacy and free speech protections for Californians who attend or work in the public schools,” saying that it provides for “no outside oversight for searches of electronic devices or online accounts; no notice to individuals or parents and guardians; and no safeguards for what information is searched and how it may be used or shared, including with federal agencies.”
As The Oracle pointed out, one justification for AB 165 is to enable school officials to protect student victims of cyberbullying. As CEO of and co-author of A Parents’ Guide to Cyberbullying, I support reasonable efforts to protect children from Bill to fight cyberbullying would strip students, teachers of privacy protections:

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