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.

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