School Sued For Reading Student's Private Facebook Messages

Authorities at Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi have allegedly joined the managers of a Houston's in New Jersey and officials from Bozeman, Montana in demonstrating a stunning disregard of people's online privacy.

Mandi Jackson, a student at the school, says that a cheerleading coach, Tommie Hill, demanded that Jackson disclose her Facebook password.

Hill then allegedly logged in and retrieved private messages -- not posts on her public wall, but confidential communications -- between Jackson and another cheerleader, and shared those with school officials. Jackson alleges that the school "publicly reprimanded, punished and humiliated" her for the contents of those messages. Among other measures, the school allegedly didn't allow her to participate in some school-sponsored events.

Jackson is now suing the school in federal court in Mississippi for violating her privacy rights.

Assuming her allegations are true, it's astounding that school authorities and their agents could have thought they had the right to intercept private messages between students.

It's not clear why Jackson complied with the request that she reveal her password, but she's not alone in doing so. Even adults have been pressured into disclosing passwords to private accounts.

In Bozeman, Montana, applicants for city jobs apparently revealed their user names and passwords to social networking sites in response to questions from the city, until officials put an end to the practice last month.

And in Hackensack, N.J., an employee at a Houston's told a manager the password to a private MySpace group that had been created by other employees to complain about the restaurant's management. Houston's fired two workers, who then sued. Last month they won their case when a jury in Newark, N.J. decided that the restaurant violated federal and state privacy laws and awarded the former employees $17,000.

4 comments about "School Sued For Reading Student's Private Facebook Messages ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Wendy Davis from mediapost, July 23, 2009 at 6:54 p.m.

    Dan, I think this type of official activity clearly has the potential to impact the advertising and media business. A demand by a school, or employer or the government to view consumers' Facebook pages could have a long-lasting impact on people’s inclination to use social media. And that would certainly affect companies that are currently attempting to use sites like Facebook to market to consumers.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 23, 2009 at 8:40 p.m.

    $17,000. For this to stop, another couple of zeros need to be added when unfortunately many other people will lose precious resources due to high fines. Those specifically responsible for criminal acts are those who really need to face the consequences. Otherwise, the entire community suffers.

  3. Stephen Rowe, July 24, 2009 at 12:56 p.m.

    Dan, actually, obliquley it does. If there is no right to privacy in personal and designated private correspondence in the social media networks, or if employers gain the right to access employees passwords, the use of social media as means of communication or expression will decline. The resulting drop in the number of subscrfibers would be lower rates for advertising and less interest by pull marketing due to the lower numbers. That could be the begining of a downward spiral for social media. Of course, that is only one possible scenario.

  4. Mark Grunden from AAA Ohio, July 29, 2009 at 7:53 a.m.

    "What does [privacy] have to do with advertising, media, or marketing?"


Next story loading loading..