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Orwell’s “1984” Comes to Life in PA – Parents File Suit Over Web-Cam Spying By School Personnel

Posted on February 20 2010 11:22 pm
John L. Work is a veteran of twenty years of Colorado law enforcement service and a graduate of Cal State Long Beach, B.A. and M.A. He has been a contributor and featured columnist for NewsRealBlog since January of 2010, and a guest columnist for FrontPageMagazine.
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Well, it’s happened.  Novelist George Orwell (pictured above) told us it would.  Big Brother is really watching you.  The final invasion of privacy by the government has begun in Ardmore, Pennsylvania at the Lower Merion School District’s  Harriton High School.  It’s time to re-read Nineteen Eighty-Four.  This goes way beyond electronic surveillance of enemies.  The school provided all students laptop computers with web-cameras built-in, for home use in school-related studies.  Alas, no one from the school administration announced that the web-cams could be remotely activated at any time, enabling school personnel to watch the students in their homes, bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms, or wherever the computers might be situated.  I wonder why notifying parents of that item was neglected.

The cyber-home-invasion came to light when a vice principal confronted a fifteen year old Harriton student with an accusation of “improper” behavior at home, and produced as evidence thereof a photo taken within the student’s home via the laptop’s web-camera. The boy’s parents filed a class-action lawsuit against the school district, the superintendent and the School Board of Directors.  With hundreds of students enrolled in the school this is massive cyber-home invasion by big government, folks.  They got cameras into the kids’ bedrooms.  Big Brother is not just a funny scripted TV reality show.  It is now genuine bona fide reality.  The entire lawsuit filing is here. With hat-tip to Michael Savage’s website, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s story is here:

“A Lower Merion family has set off a furor among students, parents, and civil liberties groups by alleging that Harriton High School officials used a webcam on a school-issued laptop to spy on their 15-year-old son at home.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court, the family said the school’s assistant principal had confronted their son, told him he had “engaged in improper behavior in [his] home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in [his] personal laptop issued by the school district.”

The suit contends the Lower Merion School District, one of the most prosperous and highest-achieving in the state, had the ability to turn on students’ webcams and illegally invade their privacy…”

A case can be well-argued that this secret electronic video surveillance of high school students within their homes constitutes a de facto government warrant-less search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. And whether or not one believes that the Constitution explicitly guarantees a right to privacy, in this case the government’s intrusion into the privacy of American citizens’ homes has been ratcheted up another notch.  So, whose bright idea was this, anyway?

Somewhere, George Orwell is pouring a tumbler full of Scotch Whiskey, lighting another cigarette – and smiling.

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