A press release from SchoolSafetyPartners.org was so strongly worded that I held off posting it until I could check into some of its assertions, but after checking, I think it’s worth posting this to alert parents to check more before signing up for any service:
MouseMail.com, an anti-sexting and anti-bullying business promoted by stockholder and former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett, offers its online monitoring services to parents who may be unaware they are giving up family privacy, according to a new report by School Safety Partners.
Parents who register with MouseMail may not realize they are granting MouseMail the right to publish all private messages and photos their families transmit through the system.
Although parents may cancel the texting and email-sniffing service at any time, MouseMail still keeps the right to publish in any way the family content stored on company servers.
MouseMail.com also reserves the right to turn over any personal information or messages to law enforcement agencies without first notifying parents or children.
The MouseMail team includes Bennett, Fox News regulars Frank Luntz and Angela McGlowan, and McGlowan’s husband, John Venners, as president. The company uses social media and viral marketing, along with non-profit endorsements in the hopes of attracting millions of subscribers nationwide.
School Safety Partners explains that parents surrender privacy the moment they request a free MouseMail trial. The MouseMail trial registration form includes a small text box that contains a 5500-word contract. By scrolling down to line 775 of the text box contract, parents are advised of their irrevocable loss of privacy. Clause 17 states:
“With respect to any Content or User Content that You upload to the Service or transmit through the Service, You hereby grant Safe Communications, Inc. a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publically perform, publicly display, and distribute that Content and User Content, the subject of the Content and other data.”
School Safety Partners finds that privacy and liability risks crop up in the terms of service and privacy policies of most MouseMail competitors as well. Over 20 companies now offer online monitoring services to parents alarmed by the way children connect today.
Before using online services to monitor their children, parents are urged by School Safety Partners to ask themselves these questions about privacy and liability issues:
1. Does the service company acquire all rights to publish my family’s private messages?
2. Does the service company have the right to turn over my family’s messages to authorities without my authorization or without first notifying me?
3. What are my obligations to the service company if a matter is to be resolved privately?
5. Does my child’s school have a policy about confiscating and searching cell phones? If so, how does it conflict with my parental monitoring and controls?
6. What are the legal consequences of preserving or deleting incriminating messages? How should offensive content be preserved or deleted?
7. Am I obligated to report criminal activity or serious risk behavior that the service brings to my attention?
8. In my state, what are the legal consequences of sexting, cyber-bullying, forwarding third-party offensive messages, issuing threats of violence, and other online criminal activities?
9. How long does the service company store my family’s messages and online activity logs?
10. Will my family’s private information be accessible for investigations centered around other families, or for out-of-state or national investigations?
For in-depth coverage of anti-bullying policies and other school safety issues, visit School Safety Partners at www.SchoolSafetyPartners.org.