An addicted insider’s account of our real lives in the era of the realtime, social web.

Confession #34: I Can See You Right Now

If you happen to be sitting in front of a laptop right now, do me a favor and look into the eye of the webcam. Notice anything? Yup. That’s me.

I’m looking right back you.

OK, so that’s not true. But it’s mostly not true because, having reflected on the nature of my own activities in front of my own laptop, I’m just too scared to even look at what you’re doing.

But would it be that hard for me to take a peek if I wanted to?

Under certain circumstances, not at all. Consider the recent class action suit filed by some parents in Pennsylvania.

Last week the family of Pennsylvania high school student Blake Robbins filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the students at Lower Merion High, alleging that teachers there spied on students through their Webcams both at school and at home.

According to the complaint, school administrators told Robbins last November that he’d been caught in some sort of “inappropriate behavior,” though what that behavior was isn’t spelled out in the lawsuit.

The evidence? Pictures of Robbins at home that the school had obtained by remotely activating the camera in the PC Robbins had been given by the school

Chatroulette, meet Chat-Russianroulette.

What’s amazing here is not that technology makes this possible, but that this high school’s higher-ups were able to convince themselves that such spying was appropriate.

For my own sanity, I’ll assume the Pennsylvania case is anomaly. But there’s no denying that our own behavior regarding privacy has helped create an enviroment in which some teacher on the other end of a webcam could think this was OK.

For some oversharers, the always-on webcam probably sounds more
like a feature than a threat. And I’m sure you know exactly which of your Facebook friends I’m talking about.

Is there a direct link between the millions of social networking addicts who consistently share a little too much and the spying that went on in Pennsylvania? Maybe not. But privacy like is a carbonated drink inside a glass bottle. Each time we freely and publicly share very personal information or a photo of our kids or the details of a relationship, we shake up that bottle a little more.

It shouldn’t surprise us at all that there will be those who come along and want to loosen the cap a little.

I’m Being Followed By My Life

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My name is Dave Pell, internet superhero. This blog provides an addicted insider's account of what's happening to us in the era of the realtime, social web. You can read more about the site, grab the rss feed, follow me on twitter, join the Facebook page, or get email updates.