School laptop users beware!
Feb 20th, 2010 by scaredpoet

Quite a lot of school districts are experimenting with the idea of issuing laptops to their students to enhance learning initiatives.  On the face of it, this seems all fine and good: parents don’t have to buy hardware for their kids, and the schools all know that their students have the technology they need to do their homework.

There’s just one little problem: naturally, kids – and even adults – will do a little more on their computers than just academics and serious work.  It’s just a fact of life.

So, if you have a school or work-issued laptop, and haven’t figured this out already, let me warn you: you MIGHT be under surveillance.  And if your school or work-issued laptop has a webcam?  Consider investing in some electrical tape, and covering that bad boy up when you’re not actively using it.

The web is totally abuzz this weekend, after some kid in Pennsylvania recently found out the hard way that maybe the school-issued laptop program isn’t totally altruistic:

On November 11, an assistant principal at Harriton High School told the plaintiffs’ son that he was caught engaging in “improper behavior” in his home and it was captured in an image via the webcam.

According to the Robbinses’ complaint, neither they nor their son, Blake, were informed of the school’s ability to access the webcam remotely at any time. It is unclear what the boy was doing in his room when the webcam was activated or if any punishment was given out.

Now, let’s just let this sink in for a moment. It isn’t specified what kind of “improper behavior” the kid was engaging in, but it does leave one open to wonder.  There’s a LOT of things teens will do in their rooms thinking no one else is watching (though granted, in the age of MySpace and Youtube, sometimes they do things totally knowing that people are watching, but let’s set that aside for a minute).  In fact, if you really think about it, there’s lot of opportunities for very inappropriate things to be captured on a webcam that some creepy assistant principal in a high school is accessing without the kid’s knowledge.  Voyeuristic tendencies, anyone?

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Telcos to FBI: LOLZ! No wiretaps for you, deadbeat!
Jan 12th, 2008 by scaredpoet


Well, FBI wiretaps actually cost money! Phone companies not only do the dirty work for our fearless government, but the FBi pays them for their work. Who knew?

Well, truth be told, the term “paid” is being used loosely, as the Feds have lately begun to act like a finicky teen who ran up their phone bill and can’t pay it:

According to the Washington Post’s Dan Eggen, audit results released today found that “telephone companies have repeatedly cut off FBI wiretaps of alleged terrorists and criminal suspects because of failures to pay telecommunication bills, including one invoice for $66,000 at one unidentified field office….The report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General Glenn Fine also identified one case in which an order obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was halted because of ‘untimely payment.’”

Oh, in case you were wondering: there was also mention in the report of other incompetence at the FBI, too. You know, piddly stuff… like, guns and laptops with citizens’ personal data on them missing. Nothing terribly important. You know.

So here we were, all worried that our civil rights were being violated, but in reality the FBI can’t even pay a phone bill on time. Or, if you come from the right side of the aisle, consider this: actual terrorist targets are probably able to talk freely because the FBI can’t pay their damn bills. Greeeeat.

It also makes you wonder: how much does a single wiretap cost? Also, how much taxpayer money is the federal government pouring into telcos to spy on people as a whole?

Unfortunately, the cited article above goes into a rant about how we should send telcos a “citizen’s” bill and make them pay, linking this to the big issue of whether telcos should be granted immunity from lawsuits over wiretapping. Frankly, I don’t understand the hard-on that civil liberties unions have over suing the telephone companies. Let’s face it: they were doing what the government TOLD them to do. If a big menacing government-guy walks into the average IT drone’s work space and talks of terrorism and Homeland Security and then waves an officially looking piece of paper around, giving orders all authoritative-like, chances are, the IT guy is gonna cave. That’s just how it is.

If the Civil Liberties’ people want to sue someone, they should lobby hard to permit lawsuits on the issue against the government, and failing that, the individual people within government who gave the orders for wiretaps in the first place. Civil liberties groups keep referring to this as illegal wiretapping… so why are they ignoring that our government officials spawned the illegality in the first place?

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