The University of Alabama is sparking concerns about data privacy after creating an app that tracks students’ locations to keep them from leaving football games early.
After attendance at Crimson Tide games sunk to a 22-year low last season, coach Nick Saban became frustrated about the lack of student presence for what has long been a top-performing program, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
As a result, the university created the Tide Loyalty Points app, which, starting this season, rewards students who attend games — and stay until the fourth quarter — by making it easier to get tickets to coveted match-ups, possibly including the Southeastern Conference championship, playoff semifinals or even the national championship, according to the Times.
When students install the app on their phones, it uses location-tracking technology to see who attends — and stays — at a Tide game.
Students earn 100 points for attending a home game, as well as additional points if they stay through the end. This supplements the 100 points students earn per academic credit hour, the newspaper says.
It’s not the only college to track students’ locations. Other schools, including the University of North Carolina, use similar technology to monitor whether college athletes are in class. It is, however, one of a few schools to track students’ locations when it comes to sports games.
FanMaker, the creator of Alabama’s app, reportedly runs similar programs for 40 universities — including Clemson University, the University of Southern California and Louisiana State University — that incentivize students through prizes such as T-shirts.
But its app for Alabama is reportedly the only one that tracks students’ whereabouts.
The move has sparked privacy concerns from critics who say that, despite the app only tracking students inside the stadium, cellphone companies are still able to track a user, the Times reports. Others are skeptical of a public university, which largely is funded by the government, monitoring its students.
The report comes as tech companies have been under increased scrutiny for how they collect user data.
The Crimson Tide, currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, lost last year's national title game to the Clemson Tigers, who are ranked No. 1 in Associated Press polling.