Pete Thamel has a story in the New York Times about a spunky, depressing new company called Varsity Monitor. Its motto (emphasis Varsity Monitor's):
At Varsity Monitor, we monitor the social media interaction of athletes for questionable conduct that could negatively affect their "Personal Brand". We monitor for actions that could endanger their future career and sponsorship opportunities as well as damage the brand of their team, league & institution.
Varsity Monitor doesn't contract with pro clubs, though. Or sports agencies. It deals with colleges—it lists North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska among its featured clients. According to the Times, schools pay Varsity Monitor $7,000 to $10,000 a year to watch their athletes. God forbid something endanger their Personal Brand (by which the school really means its own brand), you know?
But it gets worse [sic'd]:
With Varsity Monitor, it's not one size fits all…. Some of our clients use our service to monitor only publicly available data, others desire a more in depth approach.
Only Varsity Monitor offers the choice between monitoring all athlete social media accounts or only the accounts set to public. The choice is yours - and we never require passwords and fully adhere to every social networks TOS.
You see, schools? Varsity Monitor lets you choose whether they spy on your athletes. They won't spy on your athletes unless you let them, in which case they're totally down with it.
In its piece on Varsity Monitor, the Times parades a few token folks to complain halfheartedly about privacy rights in the digital age, but it misses the bigger issue: public institutions paying all that money to spy on the Twitter and Facebook accounts of employees they gleefully exploit. (And all that dough goes to a company, for what it's worth, with little command of basic English punctuation rules.)
Apparently colleges don't think the player/school balance is tilted enough in their favor. So now some former motor-oil salesman (according to Varsity Monitor honcho Sam Carnahan's LinkedIn page, he used to work in marketing at Castrol BP) gets paid state funds to dispatch email alerts every time some 19-year-old mentions the word "crunk." The internet is a terrible place.