Alabama Tracking Students' Locations To Penalize Them For Leaving Games Early
The University of Alabama is taking an extraordinary, Orwellian step to reward students who attend games -- and stay until the fourth quarter -- by using location-tracking technology from students' phones to see who skips out and who stays. If students stay until the fourth quarter, they will be rewarded with improved access to tickets to the SEC championship game and to the College Football Playoff semifinals and championship game, which Alabama is trying to reach for the fifth consecutive season. The New York Times reports: Greg Byrne, Alabama's athletic director, said privacy concerns rarely came up when the program was being discussed with other departments and student groups. Students who download the Tide Loyalty Points app will be tracked only inside the stadium, he said, and they can close the app -- or delete it -- once they leave the stadium. "If anybody has a phone, unless you're in airplane mode or have it off, the cellular companies know where you are," he said. The creator of the app, FanMaker, runs apps for 40 colleges, including Clemson, Louisiana State and Southern California, which typically reward fans with gifts like T-shirts. The app it created for Alabama is the only one that tracks the locations of its students. That Alabama would want it is an example of how even a powerhouse program like the Crimson Tide is not sheltered from college football's decline in attendance, which sank to a 22-year low last season. The Tide Loyalty Points program works like this: Students, who typically pay about $10 for home tickets, download the app and earn 100 points for attending a home game and an additional 250 for staying until the fourth quarter. Those points augment ones they garner mostly from progress they have made toward their degrees -- 100 points per credit hour. (A regular load would be 15 credits per semester, or 1,500 points.) Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy watchdog, said it was "very alarming" that a public university -- an arm of the government -- was tracking its students' whereabouts. "Why should packing the stadium in the fourth quarter be the last time the government wants to know where students are?" Schwartz said, adding that it was "inappropriate" to offer an incentive for students to give up their privacy. "A public university is a teacher, telling students what is proper in a democratic society."
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