BY THE WASHINGTON POST | Saturday, April 23, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Updated 9 hours ago Schools in Florida are renewing a program that monitors their students' social media activity for criminal or threatening behavior, despite its causing controversy since its adoption last year.
Orlando County Public Schools recently told the Orlando Sentinel that the program, which partners the school system with police departments, has been a success in protecting students' safety, saying that it led to 12 police investigations in the past year. The school district says it will pay about $18,000 annually for SnapTrends, the monitoring software used to check students' activity. It's the same software used by Racine, Wis., police to track criminal activity and joins a slew of similar social media monitoring software used by law enforcement to keep an eye on the community.
SnapTrends collects data from public posts on students' social media accounts by scanning for keywords that signify cases of cyberbullying, suicide threats or criminal activity. School security staff comb through flagged posts and alert police when they see fit. Research suggests that 23 percent of children and teens have been cyberbullied.
But privacy and social media lawyer Bradley S. Shear, based in Bethesda, Md., expressed concerns about the unintended consequences of using software such as SnapTrends. He's uncomfortable with the collection and storing of information on students.