The tyranny of liberalism goes where no liberal has gone before

The Lower Merion School District outside Philadelphia issued webcam-equipped laptop computers to the 1,800 pupils in the district’s two high schools, in order to encourage “ongoing collaboration” and to ensure that “all students have 24/7 access to school-based resources and the ability to seamlessly work on projects and research at school and at home.” Unknown to the pupils and their parents, the webcams could be activated by the school district to view whatever was in front of the webcam in the student’s home.

High school student Blake Robbins and his parents found out about the hidden capability when the assistant principal of Blake’s high school informed him that the school district believed that he “was engaged in improper behavior in his home,” and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in Blake’s laptop.

According to the story posted at America’s Right:

It was only then that Blake Robbins’ father, Michael, verified from Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko that the school district did in fact have the capability of remotely activating the cameras embedded in the district-issued laptop computer wherever the computer may be situated and regardless of whether the student is using it, and that the school district could at any time choose “to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of any persons then and there using the laptop computer.”

The Robbinses yesterday filed a class-action lawsuit against the school district in federal court in Philadelphia.

* * *

At the same moment, this story comes in, from Der Spiegel:

The lower house of the French parliament has approved a draft bill that will allow the state unprecedented control over the Internet. Although the government says it will improve security for ordinary citizens, civil rights activists are warning of a “new level” of censorship and surveillance.

… If the Senate approves the bill, the new law could come into force as early as this summer….

… According to the draft legislation, the law “makes it the responsibility of each Internet service provider to ensure that users don’t have access to unsuitable content.”

The list of banned Web sites would be provided by the Interior Ministry….

Under the new French legislation, police and security forces would be able to use clandestinely installed software, known in the jargon as a “Trojan horse,” to spy on private computers. Remote access to private computers would be made possible under the supervision of a judge….

The French government’s hard line should not surprise anyone…. in the face of a rampant economic crisis, growing unemployment, a devastatingly large budget deficit and various political scandals, Sarkozy is pulling out a presidential trump card. He is hoping that fear of criminals will convince voters to come to the polling booths.

In that respect, there is no more suitable issue than child pornography on the Internet and the hunt for pedophile criminals whose only desire is to seduce innocents via their home computers. According to that argument, it is necessary to impose controls on the digital world and introduce state surveillance, so that a pro-active Big Brother can fight the cyber world’s sexual deviants who are, in all likelihood, lurking on Facebook or Twitter.

Given the total reign of political correctness already in force in France and throughout the EU, does anyone doubt that this capability will be used to spy on thought criminals?

- end of initial entry -

February 18

Ken Hechtman writes:

Something doesn’t make sense about this story. The school district is spending an awful lot of money for a spy technique it can only use one time. The information they’re collecting has no value unless they use it in a disciplinary procedure. Once they do use it, everybody in the school knows exactly how they’re being spied on and can tape over the cameras or some such.

LA replies:

That’s a very good point. I don’t have an answer.

JPG writes:

This is STRAIGHT out of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four! The telescreen comes to life. There is an interesting genealogy to this subject that is not well known. The telescreen was a reincarnation of Jeremy Bentham’s (British Utilitarian philosopher) panopticon, a specially designed prison where a handful of guards could observe the inmates systematically at all times. The idea was to artificially inculcate a conscience in inmates believed to lack awareness of God observing them.

HAL 9000’s ubiquitous eyes were a further refinement of the telescreen justified by scientific utility of gathering data on the astronauts’ response to prolonged space flight.

So, notice how the justification for panopticon has evolved from application to prisoners, to scientific data gathering, to “access to school resources”.

Truly chilling.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 17, 2010 11:11 PM | Send

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