New program monitors athletes’ Web use

YouDiligence software raises privacy concerns for student-athletes who use Facebook.

Jake Grovum

For student-athletes, Big Brother might find his way onto computer screens, thanks to a new monitoring program.

YouDiligence – software intended to monitor athletes’ Facebook and MySpace profiles – seeks to protect athletics departments’ images nationwide.

But not all athletics officials are praising the program as the answer to their current or future problems.

The program uses a list of names provided by athletics officials, and searches student-athletes’ Web sites for a number of keywords, said Kevin Long, president of MVP Sports Media Training, who is marketing the product.

“It automates what you or I could do right now if we just logged onto the computer and just looked at whatever comes up,” he said.

MVP Sports Media Training teaches student-athletes how to perform better interviews and protect their images, Long said.

The program currently uses a list of 500 keywords, Long said, which span crime, profanity and drug and alcohol references, though the list is updated frequently.

But when students are punished for content on social networking Web sites, the issue of privacy comes to the forefront.

YouDiligence software is unable to go beyond firewalls and privacy settings.

Privacy is a nonissue, Long said, as any information the program finds exists in the public domain.

“It’s nothing that anyone walking into a public library couldn’t sit down and find in a matter of seconds,” he said. “I don’t see there being any privacy issues whatsoever.”

Despite the program’s inability to access private profiles, Gophers men’s hockey senior goaltender Brent Solei said he has some concerns about the program.

“Everybody’s entitled to their privacy,” he said. “Just because they’re athletes, I don’t think people should be looking at ours more than any others.”

However, Solei said it’s the responsibility of players to be role models.

While the program searches for content already posted by student-athletes, University athletics officials say they prefer a more proactive approach.

“It’s a very slippery slope to do that,” athletics director Joel Maturi said, regarding the employment of the monitoring program.

“I don’t believe that I would go down the monitoring aspect that this company proposes,” he said.

Officials discuss the potential pitfalls of social networking sites regularly, Maturi said, and he believes that’s the best route to take.

“Our job as educators and teachers is to do the best job that we possibly can to teach our kids responsibility and understand that they’re going to be accountable for any action that they take,” he said.

Senior Associate Athletics Director Regina Sullivan said she would have to know more about it before passing judgment.

Sullivan explained, however, that officials get their message to student-athletes about the Web sites through team meetings.

She said she doesn’t know of any athletics personnel that currently monitor student-athletes’ profiles.

While officials don’t systematically monitor student-athletes’ online profiles, Maturi said he prefers to treat them as any other student.

“Let’s take 750 students at random and look at their Web sites,” he said. “There might be something on one or two of those that you or I or maybe their mothers or fathers don’t want to see.”