Mar 2, 2010

I spy: sinister surveillance in America

by Ethan Massey

George Orwell’s “1984” tells the story of a society full of people whose every move is recorded and monitored — a story that has become a startling reality.

Harriton High School is a school much like any other in Pennsylvania. The exception is that Harriton students may be watched without even knowing it.

Fifteen-year-old Blake Robbins was called to the vice principal’s office on Nov. 11, 2009 for his “improper behavior at home.” Citing a picture obtained via Robbins’ Web cam, Vice Principal Lindy Matsko accused him of drug dealing, according to ABC News.

Robbins was among 2,300 students in the Lower Merion School District to receive an Apple laptop computer. However, the signed “memorandum of understanding” never mentioned surveillance of the students.

Unknown to parents and students alike, the school district was able to remotely access the laptop Web cams at any time. While school officials claim the feature was to find lost or stolen laptops, this is certainly a step too far for Harriton High. The school district, however, has different ideas about what happened, according to Fox News.

“The district never did and never would use such tactics as a basis for disciplinary action,” school official said, according to Fox News.

Despite the school district’s denial, the accusation against Robbins speaks for itself. When asked about the “pill” he was holding in the picture, Robbins said it was a piece of his favorite candy, Mike and Ikes. Robbins’ mother backs up his claim, saying that he is constantly eating the candy, according to Fox News.

While espionage is commonly associated with science fiction and adventure movies, it is frightening to think that an American organization would stoop to this level.

When found in a similar situation, this is exactly what the FBI did. From 2002 until 2006, the FBI illegally obtained over 2,000 U.S. phone records, according to the Washington Post. Although it was not illegal for the FBI to have the information, the records were obtained by invoking nonexistent terrorist emergencies. In an attempt to justify themselves, FBI officials issued authorization for the illegal record seizures, after the fact.

This information surfaced late in January 2010 and any illegal activity was quickly denied by the FBI.

It is alarming to think that both the FBI and school districts could be violating the trust of the American people. Their methods of obtaining information are not only illegal, but totally unethical. When on the computer next time just remember, Big Brother may be watching.

Contact Ethan Massey at

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