In the essay, "Mining Student Data Could Save Lives," author Michael Morris claims that universities should use data mining to monitor the online activity of students as a safety precaution. Access to information about students' online behavior could theoretically be used to identify individuals at risk of committing acts of violence and allow university officials to intervene before anyone gets hurt.
Personally, I agree with the idea that university officials should have access to information that could end up saving lives. While a certain degree of individual privacy would inevitably be sacrificed, I believe the overall benefits outweigh the costs. It is unlikely that a typical student would even be affected by the presence of increased surveillance. However, data mining is a controversial concept and any implementation of such practices would require clearly outlined procedures and restrictions. First of all, it would be necessary to ensure that the algorithm used to identify red-flag behavior is reliable. You wouldn't want it to constantly raise alarms at behavior that turns out to be completely harmless, but at the same time, it's important that when there is a real threat, even a subtle one, university officials are able to catch it and determine the correct steps of action. Additionally, university protocol would have to be designed so that personal student information is only disclosed to appropriate parties, in accordance with FERPA regulations.
One of the most important considerations with online surveillance is the response protocol used when at-risk students are discovered. In order for university data mining to be successful, potential threats must be dealt with tentatively. No accusations could be made based solely on analysis of online activity; intervention would have to be non-hostile and carried out with the intent to understand the student's behavior without jumping to conclusions. Officials must have the mindset to help at-risk students, not attack them.
In conclusion, universities should be allowed monitor student activity via data mining, since it can potentially identify risks of violent behavior. If implemented correctly, universities could prevent tragedies without interfering with students' daily lives. As Morris mentioned, we are all already subject to data mining from other sources, and many people are still unaware of its existence. To me, the fact that data mining could save lives makes it well worth the sacrifice of a small degree of privacy.