Is it 1984 already?

26 02 2010

This is just horrifying beyond words.

A suburban school district near Philadelphia issues students computers equipped with webcams.

The students’ MacBook laptops were outfitted with management software called LANrev that could be used to remotely activate the Webcams. The district has characterized the technology as a security tracking feature intended to recover lost laptops, and has reported that the software had been used for this purpose 42 times as of Feb. 19.

Someone using this technology activates the webcam of young Blake Robbins while he is in his bedroom at home.

The assistant principal confronts Blake,16, with a photo and accuses him of selling drugs. It later turns out that the capsules in the photo are Mike & Ike candies.

Of course, the assistant principal and the district are denying everything, but as Blake points out, the denials fall short.

Parents and students in the district are agitated. They report that students keep their computers with them all the time, including when they are changing clothes, sleeping, and even showering,  so that they can listen to music.

The FBI is investigating, and the ACLU has entered the case, saying the photo constitutes an illegal search. Lawyers for the family have sought an injunction to prevent the district from deleting evidence from its computers.

I wonder if the school district teaches George Orwell’s classic. Or did they drop it down the memory hole when its content became too uncomfortable in this post-1984 world?

UPDATE: A sophomore at the high school reported that his class had just read 1984. Lets hope it is required reading for administrators from now on.

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