Updates follow.

As a U.S. Senator running for The Office of President of The United States Barak Obama voted to remove a provision from FISA legislation that provided immunity to telephone companies that had willingly provided access to the National Security Agency (NSA), without Court issued warrants to the telephone conversations of US Citizens. The amendment that was defeated would have removed civil immunity for the telephone companies from FISA and allowed citizens to hold telephone companies (telcoms) responsible and subject to Civil Action in our courts. Then Senator Obama contradicted himself when he went on to vote in favor of the FISA legislation which included civil immunity for the telephone companies that had violated Federal laws; thanks President Obama – nice flip-flop. The violation of our rights by the telephone companies, The Bush Administration (via NSA) and the United States Senate has come to be known as the “warrantless surveillance program.”

The problem with giving up our Civil Liberties is that we give up those rights in drips and drabs and become accustom to the “new ways.” 40 years ago I know people who would have brandished a gun and shot out the security cameras that now look at us everyday. Now days we don’t give those cameras a second thought. When was the last time you willing gave out your Social Security number – perhaps because somebody told you they couldn’t do something for you without it?

This case, filed in Federal Court this past Tuesday by a Pennsylvania family may or may not be adjudged true:

“A Lower Merion family has set off a furor among students, parents, and civil liberties groups by alleging that Harriton High School officials used a webcam on a school-issued laptop to spy on their 15-year-old son at home.”

If it turns out to be true it is an example of how much we’ve given up to live in a “safe world.” Even if it turns out not to be true it demonstrates, in my opinion, how paranoid we have to be to live here in these United States.

If you use email in these rather twisted times, remember that somebody else is probably reading the words you write. If you make a phone call there is a good chance that somebody unbeknown to you is listening to the words you speak (maybe a computer equipped with voice recognition software is transcribing your words), or at the least the numbers you have dialed and the numbers you have received calls from have been data mined for analysis (probably using billing information). If you make a purchase with a credit or debit card you are being tracked. Big Brother is among us.

Oh, and just for fun here’s a tune that you might enjoy though I know that my co-conspirators here at The Ptarmigan Nest have heard it many times.

Update I (2010 Feb 24): Shut down Webcam use, judge tells school district

Update II(2010 April 15) John P. Martin reports on The Philiadelphia Inquirer website, “Lawyer: Laptops took thousands of images.”

The system that Lower Merion school officials used to track lost and stolen laptops wound up secretly capturing thousands of images, including photographs of students in their homes, Web sites they visited, and excerpts of their online chats, says a new motion filed in a suit against the district.

More than once, the motion asserts, the camera on Robbins’ school-issued laptop took photos of Robbins as he slept in his bed. Each time, it fired the images off to network servers at the school district.

Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into “a little LMSD soap opera,” a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.

“I know, I love it,” she is quoted as having replied.

Update III You can’t make this stuff up: Lower Merion report: “Web cams snapped 56,000 images.”