By Marco Malo ’21
Recently there has been a lot of buzz about the new kiosks located in different buildings on campus. A lot of it comes from just learning how they operate and when to sign in. This new system serves as a better way to keep track of students and their whereabouts in case of emergencies. For example, if the fire alarm happens to go off during the day in a dorm, the dean on duty can now check who is in the dorm (assuming they swiped in) in order to assure that everyone can get out safely.
In theory, this is a great way to maintain the safety of students and know their location on campus (or even whether they’re on campus). While this isn’t a hatchet job against the kiosks, it is an expression of mild discomfort. In the eyes of many, they seem too Orwellian. If you’re not familiar with George Orwell’s 1984, it describes a large totalitarian government with complete disregard for the privacy and liberties of its citizens. This manifests itself in a system wherein every move one makes is watched by “Big Brother,” a metonym for the government and its system of secret police and hidden cameras.
Many believe that the addition of the kiosks are a way to know the exact locations of students at any given time and that this results in a loss of privacy. Reactions have ranged from indifference towards the kiosks to many calling them an invasion of privacy.
While in certain cases, such as evening sign-in or visiting the library during quiet hours, the necessity for swiping in and out is obvious. Many, however, aren’t too fond of the idea of constant monitoring by the school. The biggest complaint against the kiosks is not what they currently do, but more what they represent for the future. In the name of safety, we swipe in and out of our dorms, but where does that end?
Must we have to swipe into other dorms anytime we go there? Must we have to say where we’re going after we swipe out of a building during the hours of the week when we’re entitled to do as we please? Must we declare our location when we stop for food during the weekend?
The premise of constantly alerting an authority to one’s presence at any given time of the day seems like something that would occur in a Black Mirror episode. Most students don’t have anything to hide, but just because one has nothing to hide doesn’t mean he should be required to expose everything. The safety of the student body is an important issue that the school must deal with, and though I applaud the administration’s efforts to ensure student security, the fear of a potential invasion of privacy is a real one. Perhaps Orwellian may be an extreme characterization, but elements of it are present in the new kiosk system. In the name of safety, are we willing to give up certain aspects of our privacy, and if so, how much?