Monday, August 25, 2014

An Open Letter to WCPS Regarding "Social Sentinel"

The following letter is being sent to Washington County Public Schools to address the recent community concerns over "Social Sentinel". Any response received will be published in its entirety. 

Dear WCPS Board and Administrators,

There has been a lot of concern lately over the "Social Sentinel" software, which is going to be used to monitor social media in Washington County.  Particularly, growing concern has been seen over the possible use of Social Sentinel for monitoring completely unrelated to safety and security, such as monitoring parents' posts involving "Common Core" or other relevant issues.  This has generated a lot of hostility towards WCPS from parents, and even teachers.

Transparency and openness is crucial to the operation of any government. As such, I am asking you, on behalf of all concerned parents and other members of the community, to be completely open and honest about what is being monitored by Social Sentinel.

I hereby request that the following information about Social Sentinel be published to the WCPS website, and updated as the information changes:

  • The current list of social networks being monitored by Social Sentinel
  • The current list of keywords being monitored by Social Sentinel, and their associated "geofences", or if the "geofence" has been disabled for any keywords
  • Statistics on how many alerts have been triggered by Social Sentinel, and how many of those alerts were credible threats to the safety and security of the school
  • The current list of teachers, faculty, administrators, and any other WCPS staff, contractors, or elected representatives which have access to the Social Sentinel data
  • All documents related to plans for current and future use of this tool, as well as all policies requiring the ethical use of this tool, and the consequences for abusing the tool in an unethical manner
By being completely transparent and open about what Social Sentinel is doing, and how it is being used, the community of Washington County will most likely be willing to work with WCPS, not against, to ensure that our schools are safe and secure.

I look forward to publishing your response in the WashCo Chronicle.

Ken Buckler
Editor, WashCo Chronicle