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Privacy Paranoia

Written by Zoe Blain
Week 10: Surveillance/ Surveillance Laws 

At my high school it was compulsory for all students in year nine to purchase or rent a Mac-book. I have always had a personal vendetta against Apple (possibly inherited from my PC loving father), so I stubbornly ran the unstable Windows platform. Little did I know that this choice saved me from dozens of lunchtime detentions.

Before our Mac-books were bestowed upon us we were warned of the consequences of visiting blocked internet sites, playing games in class and storing illegally downloaded files on our hard drives. Naturally these rules were broken, and everybody got very good at quickly minimizing windows.

I was in English class when it happened. One of my good friends was playing a flash game next to me. Suddenly the screen dimmed and froze. A word document opened and slowly, across the screen the words “get back to work” materialized. My friend slammed the lid shut. Minutes later the resident IT troll appeared at the door and confiscated his computer. I was amused. He was outraged, and spent the next half hour trying to digest privacy acts on his phone. Nothing he found helped his case. Over the next week, more laptops were pried off students and rumors begun circulating: “The IT guys can search your computer from the staff room…” “They can turn on the webcam and watch you…” Despite the allure of Photobooth many camera lenses were covered with duct tape. Students begun turning off the Bluetooth and WiFi out of fear of being spied on.

One of my other good friends was rather computer literate. He started showing people how to change their IP addresses so they could visit blocked sites without being watched. Sometimes he charged them, sometimes he didn’t. Then one day in assembly we were warned that the punishment for this modification was re-imaging.I ignored these threats and rumors, continuing to browse Myspace and download torrents in every class. I suspected that it had something to do with using Windows. When word got out many kids switched. Windows wasn’t available to the next lot of year nines.

To this day, I still know a lot of people who are very edgy about being spied on through their mobile phones and laptops. Some even believe that all smart phones can be programmed to switch on the camera or voice recorder remotely. They warn that Facebook can track you and Google saves copies of your internet history once a week. I don’t really care whether this is true or not. I sometimes even purposely jeopardize my “cyber footprint” with sarcastically scandalous statuses and revealing blog posts. Surveillance has a sly, unavoidable presence in 21st century life. So, as ill advised as it may be, I choose to take my chances and ignore it.

Hmmm high angle, blue lighting, hidden face and computer code… this guy must be a hacker! 

For further reading have a look at this paranoid cracked article: http://www.cracked.com/article_18532_5-terrifying-ways-your-own-gadgets-can-be-used-to-spy-you.html
And if you’re overly concerned check out these helpful government tips: http://www.privacy.gov.au/topics/technologies

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