Under the Dome

NC legislator promotes student data privacy

State Rep. Duane Hall said he would try again this year to pass a bill that would help students shield their email and social media posts from school officials.

Such a law “is needed in the digital age to preserve our fundamental right to privacy,” Hall, a Raleigh Democrat, said at a news conference.

In 2013 Hall, sponsored a bill that would have protected students’ social media accounts and prevented employers from requiring workers to hand over their passwords or show bosses their accounts. The bill passed the House, but stalled in the Senate.

Hall was talking about data privacy Wednesday as part of a nationwide event coordinated by the ACLU, where privacy legislation was discussed in fifteen states and Washington, D.C.

Schools should not be able to force or coerce students into giving administrators access to social media accounts, Hall said. Under the bill, schools would be able to get the information in certain circumstances - in emergencies or as part of investigations, for example.

Lindsie Trego, a UNC-Chapel Hill law student, said social media platforms are the primary communications tools for young people. Protecting online privacy preserves students’ autonomy, she said.

The free exchange of ideas “is chilled when students fear that their private messages will be read by school officials who seek to gain access to their communications,” Trego said.