Is LatinAuth Watching?

Olivia Baker The phrase “Big Brother is Watching You” was first conceived by George Orwell in the third paragraph of the first chapter in the novel 1984. Referencing the surveillance of citizens by a totalitarian regime, the phrase seems to have lost relevancy. But perhaps it didn’t. It’s no secret that with the advent of wifi and social media we are constantly under watch. Whether it’s by a Big Brother-esque symbolic figurehead or furtive corporations capitalizing on our personal information, we’ve been educated—and warned— about the risks of our internet presence. Though what if those same institutions, the ones that have cautioned its constituents of these exploits, have been the perpetrators of them all along? Welcome to Latin’s computing policy. Students seem to have at least a sense of the IT department’s invisible hand. Even the Latin handbook states that “IT personnel may conduct searches when there is a reasonable suspicion that computing resources have been misused, policy has been violated or when routine maintenance and monitoring of computer and the network reveal possible violation of policy.” I suppose (and hope) most of us aren’t subject to these routine searches. But there’s something to be said about the fact that they can happen. Easily. And perhaps without our knowing consent. To Shandor Simon, head of IT, this is done out of good, even requisite, measure. “A number of members of our community have fallen prey to phishing attempts on their personal devices, where a fake e-mail is sent soliciting information” he explains. “They have been tricked into giving up their credit card information or passwords.” Indeed, “the level of threats continue to become increasingly sophisticated”, hence Latin’s impetus for expanding their protection of our data and privacy. Evidently, IT is a benign institution, contrary to my initial speculation. And no, they don’t spy on us or meddle in our online activity in vain. (It’s definitely not some Stalinite spy agency that operated in a small independent school in Chicago, and somehow, despite their notoriety, got stuck with the substandard real estate just outside the first-floor gym). In fact, they’re just looking out for us. Their operations are more covert than we think, however. Ever wonder why you couldn’t access that questionable website that one time? “The school uses a web content filter to prevent the accidental access of inappropriate websites” Simon explains.  “Most of the time, Upper School students can override the filter with their username and password if they think the site was blocked in error. Sites that the content filter views as illegal or that have malware that is dangerous to your computer cannot be overridden.” Similar steps were taken during the Yik-Yak epidemic of 2013. Students were using the anonymous app, Yik-Yak, to post offensive, rude comments about one another, so Latin took steps to make it challenging for Latin students to access the app in school. “The issues with Yik-Yak went well beyond the walls of Latin” however, according to Simon. “Many schools were challenged by it. At the time, we took steps to block it from our network. While it appeared to be a tech issue, ultimately it was about people behaving badly and not respecting others. While technology facilitated it, people were ultimately behind and responsible for the behavior” said Simon. There’s a common maxim often associated with the birth control debate— “better to unload the gun than shoot the bulletproof vest.” And though this is a starkly distinct issue, it’s still applicable to internet misuse. “Sometimes technology makes it easier for us to be mean to others because we are not directly interacting with them.  I’d encourage everyone to think before the post. Do you want that post to be permanently associated with you? Are you the kind of person that posts something like that? It may seems that some of the tools used offer anonymity, but often that is only an illusion” explained Simon.]]>