Big Brother Millard is Watching

  • Craig Sullivan
  • June 1st, 2017
  • No comments
Careful what you type, because "Big Brother Millard" is watching. Graphic by Emily Seaton.

Careful what you type, because “Big Brother Millard” is watching. Graphic by Emily Seaton.

No, this is not a review of the hit television show Big Brother nor is it about the classic book 1984, although both are good segues.

The contestants on Big Brother have virtually everything they do scrutinized and have almost no privacy. On the other hand, 1984 is about Oceania, where “Big Brother” is always watching and the Thought Police can practically read people’s minds. While not as extreme as the previous examples, some Wildcat students may feel like their privacy is being violated now.

Students need to be careful as to what they type on their school issued computers. Millard is watching.

Emails and Google documents can be looked at and people can get notified for various occurrences like “vulgar” language. Some of the time this information is used effectively, like seeing threats. Other reasons, not so much.

Students need to be careful as to what they type on their school issued computers. Millard is watching. One Pawprint member even tapes their laptop's camera for more privacy and that is not an uncommon occurrence anymore. Photo By: Craig Sullivan

Students need to be careful as to what they type on their school issued computers. Millard is watching. One Pawprint member even tapes her laptop’s camera for more privacy and that is not an uncommon occurrence anymore. Photo By: Craig Sullivan

According to technical support, the district employs Gaggle which uses software to flag and scan emails looking for bad words. If bad language such as a swear word appears, then the district is notified. Gaggle looks at the context of the word and if it is inappropriate the student is warned or notified. If there are more words or if it happens again administration is notified.

Millard is going through the juggling act of trying to keep students safe, while also not infringing on basic privacy.

Recently, one member of the Pawprint staff was alerted that she had been notified she needed to change a profane word that had been typed in her Google document. The student kept the headline with profane language that she had no intention of sharing or handing in, but was called down to administration when it wasn’t deleted.

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“I didn’t even contribute to the document and there was no profanity, but I was still flagged and given a warning,” Dobbs said.

It is not just the Pawprint staff who is getting notified. Students who did not even use any “obscene language” have been cited as well.

Junior Katelynn Dobbs recently received an email saying she was flagged for a document that had been shared with her. She herself had not even written in the document, another student  contributed the colorful language.

“I didn’t even contribute to the document and there was no profanity, but I was still flagged and given a warning,” Dobbs said.

I doubt the original purpose of watching over the computers is to flag people for using foul language on documents he/she can only view. Who is that hurting exactly? At that point, it really seems like micromanaging.

Privacy is an important virtue people rely on.

One Pawprint member even tapes her laptop’s camera for more privacy and that is not an uncommon occurrence anymore.

In a world with so much technology, it feels like someone is always watching.

Daniel J. Solove is the John Marshall Harlan Research Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School and an expert in privacy law. He said it best in his article “Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’.”

“Privacy is rarely lost in one fell swoop. It is usually eroded over time, little bits dissolving almost imperceptibly until we finally begin to notice how much is gone,” Solove wrote.

Privacy is not a privilege. It is a basic human right.

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