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The NCAA Has Its Eyes On You
By: Jennifer Graber
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If sports fans had a soundtrack for social media, you might hear Michael Jackson’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” playing in the background. Or, if you listen closely, you might even hear the faint echoes of Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night” drifting through the air. The dubious song choices are potentially alarming and might cause one to question the person sitting next to him or her in a sports arena. But the songs are more indicative of the sports organizations than the fans themselves, believe it or not. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, has hired security firms to patrol the mean streets of social media during the height of March Madness. And policing of social media is apparently a common practice, particularly before big, important games.
The NCAA has asked the hired security firms to be vigilant watchdogs over various social media sites, such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. The firms browse these social sites for any "suspicious" chatter that may be present. And the firms say that suspicious chatter can be any kind of indicator that a fan may get “feisty” with coaches, other fans, staff, or athletes. There may also be signs of whether or not fans will get unruly at or during the big game. The security firms are just basically on the lookout for anything that might tip them off towards an unfavorable situation or security risk. Some firms use social media as a barometer for the mindset of the sports fans.
At first glance, this policy of the NCAA hiring security firms to watch social media may seem drastic. And of course it might even bring to mind many questions about privacy and necessity (it would be unnerving if it did not). Why would they need to watch out for me? I would never become a crazed fan.
It all comes down to a matter of safety. If security can keep the alleged risks out of an arena or stop the madness before it becomes uncontrollable, are we not all better off? We all want to be safe. We all want to feel as if we can enjoy a sports outing without fear or concern over the actions of others. And monitoring social media is just an additional tool that allows security to do its job in, hopefully, a more effective manner.
The truth of the matter, however, is that social media is not the end all, be all in security. Yes you can find out a great deal of information on social media. But, it absolutely will not be a 100% reliable source to weed out all the “crazies." And, as with all online activity, you do have to question at what point is too much social media watching considered "spying"? We are all entitled to free speech and privacy, so where is that line? When is it considered okay versus not okay?
Social media as a security measure is, without a doubt, a fine line to walk. There is an incredibly delicate balance that must be achieved in these types of ventures. As long as security firms can find that tricky balance, then there is no harm in using social media for the good purpose of increased public safety.

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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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