As education, work and recreation begin to merge on the Web, the lines that used to separate public and private information continue to disappear.

It’s common knowledge that what you do on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace become a part of public information, but there should be limitations on the organizations or institutions that search these sites with the intent on controlling the behavior and actions of the users involved.

In Nashville, the NCAA is conducting its annual convention and YouDiligence, a computer program, is creating a buzz. According to an article by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the program is being delivered as a “social-network monitoring service.” The Chronicle interviewed three lawyers, and while they were disconcerted about the program, they maintained that it was legal.

Instead of creating or purchasing programs to monitor the social aspects of students, regardless of their relationship to a university, progress should be made in securing online classes. Universities have a responsibility to educate their students. They should not put effort into policing social behaviors.

In a society that has been working to come to terms with a government that has been feeding off of the Patriot Act, higher education should take a stand to respect the rights of students, even if there are loopholes that can be exploited.

What is even more disturbing is that it appears YouDiligence is being used by universities to save face and prevent athlete scandals instead of a genuine concern about student development. Moreover, the program’s developer, Kevin Long, states that this program will allow coaches to spend more time coaching and less time monitoring their student athletes. If anything, this will help de-emphasize the mentoring role of coaches in the lives of their players, further limiting their college experience.

Athletes are already used to bring notoriety and prestige to their universities. Their images appear on billboards and they are expected to be representatives in every phase of their lives. Should their personal space be consistently scrutinized by programs?

The acceptance of this program by universities is a part of a dangerous trend. While these social Web sites are used at the user’s expense, this program could be one more step at prohibiting the rights of students, athletes and citizens.