Saturday, February 20, 2010

Private eyes, they're watching you, they see your every move...

What to make of this? An affluent suburban Philadelphia school district has been accused of spying on high school students via the laptop webcams in the computers the schools gave them. What would sound like a paranoid delusion has been corroborated in part by a lawsuit from Michael and Holly Robbins, when they claimed that "Lindy Matsko, an assistant principal at Harriton High School, told their son Blake that school officials thought he had engaged in improper behavior [not specified] at home." Also, "Matsko later confirmed to Michael Robbins that the school had the ability to activate the webcams remotely, according to the suit, which was filed Tuesday [February 16, 2010]. . ." (Quotes from a copyrighted Associated Press article written by MaryClaire Dale.)

Kids leave their laptops on in their bedrooms and school officials can, unbeknownst to the students, peer in at them by remotely activating the webcam. That's the stuff of paranoid nightmares!

As a society we have set pretty strict boundaries on who is allowed in our homes and for what purpose. If you take pictures or video of me when I'm in a grocery store, I can't say anything. It's for the protection of the property owner. If I'm in my house and you take pictures of me then that's a violation of my privacy and it's pretty damn illegal, too.

If a school district can activate a webcam, how about paparazzi hacking into celebrity laptops and watching them via their webcams? Or even the government hacking into our laptops to watch us?

Some years ago the story went around that cable television systems were watching their customers. It sounded preposterous to me at the time. Why anybody would go to that much trouble--there are a lot of cable TV customers--was beyond me, but now I wonder. That was before laptops (or before they were common, anyway), and in a paranoid mind there could be a connection between the two. In a particularly suspicious mind perhaps the Watchers are using our most common technology against us: our televisions and webcams to watch and listen to us...our cell phones to pinpoint where we are.

AAARRRRGGGH! No wonder paranoiacs are paranoid! If they weren't paranoid before they'd be paranoid thinking about all of this!

In the early 1930s psychiatrists identified what was then called the influencing machine on the minds of paranoid schizophrenics. This was the belief that there was a technology, beyond that of the individual, with which other people were influencing them. It's probably when paranoids started wearing tinfoil-lined hats. Eighty years later the ubiquity of advanced electronics technology can't help but set off alarm bells in people who believe they are being controlled or spied on by their "enemies," by police or the government. A story last night on a Salt Lake City TV news broadcast amplified that alarm. Wireless "nannycams," used in the home to watch children in another room via the laptop, send a signal that can be grabbed by others using simple devices bought in electronics stores. A reporter was shown standing outside a home watching on a device what the nannycam was showing inside the house. Some businesses use the nannycams for their own purposes, watching their employees, for instance. If a nannycam uses a hardwire it's no problem...but if it's a wireless camera then it broadcasts on a common frequency and can be accessed by third parties.

Put that in your paranoia pipe and puff it!

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