Saturday, February 20, 2010

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Privacy is one of those things. Though you feel like you have the right to it that's not always the case. In the home specifically is the one place where an expectation of privacy is always honored. Paparazzi can only shoot through with a clear line of sight from public property and once inside a private dwelling privacy is absolute. Within the limits of the laws of course.

But Internet privacy is an urban myth. There is no such thing. Electronic communications like emails are not private. Anything said and posted online is out there for anyone to find and read. So when computers are given by an institution with rules and disclaimers attached the line gets blurry.

The Philadelphia suburban school districts that issued Mac's to its student body have recently figured this out. The built in web cams that Mac's are equipped with have become a point of contention because school officials have been turning them on and spying on kids at home.

Anyone who's gone through the school system knows how to get around the rules. Three hours after school lets out and one trip back to a students house and the student is no longer the responsibility of the school. They are the responsibility of the parent so any action taken by the student after this time frame is no longer school related.

But absoluter power corrupts absolutely and some administrator somewhere got the bright idea that because the capabilities were there they had the right to peek into the lives of children that they were no longer responsible for.

Kids knew the risks and were quoted as saying that they would cover the web cams in school with pieces of paper so the administration couldn't spy on them on campus. But their expectation that once inside the home they were safe from higher authorities was violated.

When one young mans after school actions were brought to his attention this started a legal battle with the posh district. But who's to say that this was the first or only infringement? Kids across the country are issued computers. Has this happened before?

But like many situations, things are not always what they seem. The Trojan horse is not a new metaphor and when the children and parents took the school issued computers they also took the chance of being monitored. Like letting a jealous boyfriend buy you a new cell phone. He's gonna check the calls you make. It's inevitable.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

3:10 to Market

Anyone who's ever been standing on a subway landing in Philadelphia around 3pm knows the threat of Philadelphia's school children. Mobs of khaki donning teens crowd the landings and trains. They are an imposing force. Loud, rowdy and fearless these kids dominate the scene.

One day while I was coming up the steps from the Broad Street line the Market train had just let out and a man was walking towards me. I watched a group of five or six kids swarm this guy. They ran up from behind him, knocking his bag off of his shoulder, swinging at his body and smashing his head into the wall. Before this man knew what happened the crew kept running and was gone. All that was left of the attack was a confused subway rider and a blood smear on the wall.

I stood in astonishment. It was nearly rush hour. I wasn't a bar crowd or a packed sports train. It was mid-afternoon and this man was just brutally attacked by school kids. Kids with no fear or respect of anyone or anything. I used to be one of those kids. Sure I was in Jersey and I wasn't randomly attacking adults on the subway but I know the type.

This complete lack of respect for society itself- its rules and inhabitants has recently manifested itself in the form of flash mobs in the Gallery. Hundreds of high school kids converge on the Gallery, and the subways, on a regular basis. This is nothing new. But this past week the mob got rowdy. Worse than usual and when they were confronted they ran through the shops and the streets terrifying pedestrians, bombarding drivers and ransacking stores.

In other cities flash mobs are coordinated to protest perceived injustices or draw attention to a social trend. But in Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney is calling these acts "urban terrorism" and looking to pursue legal battles with the social networking leaders- Facebook, MySpace and Twitter if it is found that the mobs were coordinated online.

But the city always seems to be a step behind the problem be it murders, snow removal or unruly kids in Center City. I think a little bit of proactive planning instead of retrospective clean-up is in order. In this case it's the kids and it's not just in Philadelphia. Kids do bad stuff. It happens but if you know that there are certain times and certain places that are problematic why wait until after the fact to act?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Counting White Cars

When I was a kid I remember crossing the Walt Whitman bridge headed back to the city from visiting family in Jersey. I would look over the side, down to the city and the expansive lots full of cars...all white cars. To a seven year old it was funny. Why were all the cars white? Little did I know that they were new and covered with white plastic.

Today all of those lots are empty. It's been years since the rows of white donned the Philadelphia waterfront but a new deal with Hyundai could bring life back to the bleak emptiness known as the corner of Delaware and Oregon.

The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority owns the 90 acre lot. It has been working since at least October on the deal which would bring over 100 ships of cars per year to the region creating about 250 jobs.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer the deal is still finalized and looking at a February 26th deadline.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What's Old is New Again

My old stuff... Guess it's time to get back on the wagon. lol. Check it out and we'll pick up where we left off...

kyp with msd