A slippery slope
I was wathcing the news yesterday, and there was a piece on the government supporting teachers getting the right to go through students bags and such while at school. I think this is a horrible idea. Let me tell you why.
Traditionally, a person and his property are his. You need probable cause to search this person or his or her property. What they are now proposing is that teachers get the privilege to go through their students stuff, in order to..what prevent school shootings? I guess that’s the subtext, since we’ve had a few of those. Now, I don’t have to tell you school massacres are a bad thing; hint: they are. What I’m saying is loss of privacy is even worse. What would the teachers consider harmful? The article, posted on yle.fi here, mentions harmful items and substances. So drugs and guns? Let me be the first (not) to tell you that this will not solve the problem of school shootings. Why? Because I can come to school in the middle of the day and start shooting, before anyone has had a chance to look at my bag. Should we then install metal detectors at schools, and be all American, and shit? Not a bad idea, but imagine the amount of false positives? Start X-raying the pupils bags? Fine, but imagine that scene from the Matrix. Yeah that one. This isn’t creating security, this is creating insecurity, delays and loss of privacy.
Where we should spend money, in my humble opinion, is mental care, and early detection of mental issues at school. Talking to people works better than patting them down. We all remember that kid from school that nobody talked to, who always sat in the back of the class and didn’t speak to anyone unless spoken to. These are the people (among others), that we should be talking to. Making connections, talking to parents, talking to peers.
There is no amount of physical security that will prevent all shootings. You can say that “Sure, but it’d stop some, so isn’t that worth it?!”, but I don’t think it is. The determined person will always find a way. And what we will have lost in the process is much more valuable. Because once we start down that road, there’s no stopping. Next we’ll have authorities looking at what books are checked out from the (school) library, what people chose to eat at school or work, and using that to start profiling people, and comparing those profiles to those of ‘threatening individuals’, or anything that’s indicative of risky behavior. We’re gonna start getting the classic “If you’re not a bad person, you shouldn’t have anything to hide”-argument. People are gonna shrug, and go along. And before you know it, we’re in the surveilance society. Finland still has a fighting chance. We don’t have cameras everywhere. It’s a big country with low population density.
We know by example that what the authorities tell us is just their best effort. Start collecting fingerprints for passports? Promise us to just use them for that purpose? Fast forward a few years, and we have police/politicians saying “Okay, now that we have these handy fingerprints of almost every Finn, why not.. use this data? I mean, we already have it!”. The authorities are not robots. They are not immune to personal desires and misbehavior. Look at the amount of police looking, illegally, into the cases of a number of celebrity crimes (Anneli Auer, Mika Myllylä to mention a few; the latter of which had 136 police officers snooping around data that they were not authorized to view). The fact that the data is collected, or the authority given, does not protect us from mis-use. It makes it easier.
We’re now considering installing traffic cameras that would look at not only speeding and running red lights, but see if a car has been inspected (as is mandated by law), if it’s registered, whether people are wearing seatbelts etc. Again we get the “So don’t do anything wrong!”-argument. But this doesn’t change the fact that we are getting authorities with increasing amounts of data on our movements and actions that they have no business knowing. The fact that they will collect the data will lead to them abusing the data. Imagine if that data were to get to the hands of advertisers? Minority Report, anyone?
We saw the S-chain of stores use loyalty card data to send out warnings on a product that contained harmful substances. So you buy a bag of chips, and flash your loyalty card (or bonus card as we call them here) at the checkout, and whammo, the store knows what you bought, when, how you paid, etc. “No no, this is just for statistics and..” ..and when you want to contact people to let them know they bought a potentially dangerous item. And maybe if you want to send targeted advertising to people based on what they bought? Or maybe sell that to third parties who also want to know what you buy and when. Hey, bought adult diapers? Either you’re a pervert or you have a medical condition. Maybe someone would benefit from knowing that information. Would you like that information to be public? Probably not. But then, the store wouldn’t use that data to do anything evil, now would they?
So don’t use loyalty cards. Don’t pay by credit. Don’t drive. Don’t move. Don’t go to school. Don’t get a passport and don’t travel. Don’t..