Australian schools spying on students' activities on social networking sites

Canberra, Aug 13(ANI): Australian schools are hiring internet monitoring companies to spy on students' activities on social networking sites.

A typical monitoring service reads any publicly available material posted on sites such as Facebook, Formspring and Tumblr.

"We go where the conversations are, where young people or communities of interest are coalescing online," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted an internet monitoring firm, SR7 partner, James Griffin, as saying.

"We know it's become pretty much the essential way of communicating for this generation of students and we understand it's a big part of their lives. But we're also aware of the dangers that can come from unrestrained use," School Director Frances Booth said.

Other schools rely on students or parents to monitor their online postings.

Northern Beaches Christian School Principal Stephen Harris said he calls parents even late at night if their children post inappropriate content on the web.

"Our school policy now extends the concept of the school playground to any environment in the social media platform where a student of the school or a teacher is identified by either name, image or inference," he said.

Public schools are also stepping into what had earlier been considered either private or the domain of parents.

New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties President Cameron Murphy described the monitoring as an "outrageous invasion" of students' privacy.

"Just because students may discuss things about school over the phone at night, it wouldn't be appropriate or lawful for a school to tap someone's phone and make decisions about them on that basis. Just because it happens to be a social networking site, it shouldn't be any different," he said.

But Griffin defended the act by saying it is schools' duty to take care of their students. (ANI)