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When the Iredell-Statesville Schools Board approved the Gaggle Safety Management for Google on Monday night, it was listed on the agenda as social media monitoring software. That term, says David Edwards, is misleading.

Edwards, the Iredell-Statesville Schools Executive Director of Technology and Media Services, says the software is designed to keep students safe, not interfere with their privacy. To that end, it can only monitor programs on school-issued devices – and not to the level some assume. It cannot access a student’s Facebook, Snapchat or other accounts if those are not being accessed on the school-issued devices.

Edwards says anything that happens outside of the school system – and the devices – is not impacted by this program. The software does not search a student’s social media accounts or anything of that nature. It is designed to protect students – and only when they are on the school’s devices.

Students are not supposed to access social media accounts on the school-supplied devices anyway. If they do, then the software can tell that the account has been accessed and, when used on that device, can pick up keywords used as part of its search to protect the students from the harmful terms and photos the program is designed for, such as threats or bullying. It will not search other devices, such as a student’s cell phone.

“We want the public to understand this is a safety and security measure, not a privacy measure,” Edwards says.

He adds that when students were issued their devices, they did sign a privacy waiver, so the school system is within its rights where the devices are concerned. That, however, is not the primary issue.

“We want the public to understand this is a safety and security measure, not a privacy measure,” he said.

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