Privacy takes the stage in MnSCU

Daily Editorial Board

Just weeks after it went into effect, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) is sidelining a new rule that allowed the school system to inspect the personal cellphones of any of its nearly 17,000 employees.
The MnSCU rule permitted administrators to examine private phones, computers and other mobile devices if they were also used professionally. Employees and state legislators pushed back, citing privacy encroachment and ceasing personal cell phone use.
Until both sides reach a compromise on the policy’s language, MnSCU said it would not enforce the rule.
Because they work for a system of 31 state colleges and universities, MnSCU employees’ data is considered public. Officials say the rule protected text messages and emails that could be considered “government data” under state law.
“The obligation to protect information has been in place for many years,” an MnSCU statement said.
But critics of the procedure say employees should be able to provide a copy of business-related data upon request, without having to hand over their personal devices.
As our own campus grapples with the relationship between school employees and administrators in the ongoing debate over faculty unionization, we applaud MnSCU administrators for their flexibility. Their moratorium on a new policy shortly after its rollout shows they are willing to listen and respond to their employees’ concerns. 
We urge MnSCU to continue open dialogues about a critical issue that will likely emerge in other public sectors as the line between personal and professional life thins.