Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Trojan Force

[Troy University] University Police Monitoring Facebook

University police monitoring Facebook

Joshua Smith , staff writer
posted on Feb. 9, 2006

People are “Facebooking” you, and it’s not who you might think: The Troy University Police Department [Troy, Alabama]

“Lately, because of issues [on Facebook], we’ve been monitoring it more closely,” Troy University Chief of Police Rod Anderson said.0 According to Anderson, officers familiar with Facebook are using their e-mail address to gain access to Facebook to monitor possible harassment and intimidation by students. Dean of Student Services Herbert Reeves said he was unaware of this monitoring program. “As far as going out on Facebook every day to see if there’s stuff on there that’s inappropriate,” Reeves said. “I’m unaware that [the police department] is doing that. It’s news to me.” According to Facebook spokesperson Chris Hughes, this activity is being taken without their consultation and that they have not cooperated with any other school in any similar effort.

In a Facebook search of people who work at “university police department,” two names were found on the Troy server: Larry Thomas, who lists himself as a 2005 alumnus of Troy and Dale England, who has locked out his profile to people who are not on his friends list. Reeves said that he was aware of three instances where students or faculty reported harassment via Facebook. Anderson confirmed one of these.
Reeves said that the university administration is not taking an active role in monitoring Facebook activity.

In response to the activity taken by the university police department, Facebook spokesperson Chris Hughes said, “If users do not want police to be able to see their profile information, they should go to the ‘My Privacy’ section and change their settings. “[Users] can make it so that only students can see the info or even so that only friends can. Users have complete control over who can see what,” he added. Hughes said that monitoring of Facebook raises legal issues. “Any law enforcement attempt to gather information from Facebook must follow proper legal procedure, and any evidence gathered illegally is unlikely to be admissible in court,” Hughes said.

Joseph Colquitt, a professor of law at the University of Alabama and a retired circuit court judge in the state of Alabama said, “This is a very complicated legal matter.” Colquitt continued, “Quite frankly, I would want to hear a lot of arguments from both sides before making any kind of decision on a matter such as this.” “It would depend on how the information was gathered, how that information was used, how it was posted, etc,” Colquitt said.

The center of the legal question is the Fourth Amendment’s implied right to privacy. “It would be difficult to argue that there is an invasion of privacy if the information is public,” said Colquitt. “I believe that anything on the Internet is a public forum,” said Sam Shelton, an assistant professor of political science at Troy University who teaches a course on constitutional law.“I’d compare Facebook to a gated community,” he said. “Only those in the community can be let in. However, I have no control over who is let in or what they do when they’re let in,” Shelton said. Shelton said he believed that the actions taken by the university police department were possibly inappropriate.

However, the question is not cut and dried. “If there’s information out there and the government sees it, even if they’re not supposed to, are they just supposed to advert their eyes?” Shelton said. While there have been no cases in the legal system to determine Facebook’s status as a public or private forum, Shelton said it would be an interesting case to watch. “If all you had were some illicit activity gained by law enforcement via Facebook, I’m not sure that would be enough for a warrant,” Shelton said, under the need to show probable cause. However, Shelton also noted that every judge defines probable cause differently, so there’s no easy way to say whether information on Facebook would be enough for a judge to issue a warrant. Chief Anderson said believes that Facebook is not doing enough to ensure that inappropriate material is kept off the network.


The Tropolitan: The Official Newspaper of Troy University [Troy, Alabama]


Newspaper Theft at Troy University: Facebook Article Involved?
by Robert Shibley

February 15, 2006

Today’s Inside Higher Ed features an article about an instance of illegal censorship at Troy University in Alabama, which holds the dubious distinction of being one of the targets of FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project because of its unconstitutional speech code. The latest instance of censorship at Troy came last Thursday, when nearly 2,000 out of 3,000 printed copies of the Tropolitan, Troy’s main campus newspaper, were stolen from their distribution sites. Tropolitan staffers surmise that the theft might be connected to the fact that an article in that edition of the paper revealed that university police officers might be monitoring students’ entries on, a popular website for college students.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Tropolitan is not the Newspaper of Troy it is Troy Universities Campus newspaper by the students with an adviser. I currently write for the paper aka the Trop and I did last year as well. The local newspaper of Troy, Alabama is called The Messenger.