Boston College Police to Mac, Linux users: We’re watching you

Boston College Police to Mac, Linux users: We’re watching you


Linux and Mac-using students at Boston College should watch out. Apparently, using those two operating systems—which have command-line prompts and are not the “regular B.C. operating system”—is a sign of criminal intent. That’s what we’re to believe after Boston College Campus Police seized a student’s laptop computer and other electronic gear in a hunt for the person who identified another student as gay on a mailing list, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The warrant used for the seizure of the student’s possessions says the police are seeking evidence of the crimes of “Obtaining computer services by Fraud or Misrepresentation” and “Unauthorized access to a computer system.” And yet, according to the EFF, the cited behavior in the warrant application is laughably broad and contains no specific allegations that would constitute criminal behavior.

There are no assertions that a commercial (i.e. for pay) commercial service was defrauded, a necessary element of any “Obtaining computer services by Fraud or Misrepresentation” allegation. Similarly, the investigating officer doesn’t explain how sending an e-mail to a campus mailing list might constitute “unauthorized access to a computer system.”

Of course, we might surmise that the real crime here is the outing of a student as gay, a politically incorrect move to be sure no matter whether the student was actually gay, although an article in the campus newspaper BC Heights leads one to believe that this is a standard case of two roommates who just didn’t get along, each one determined to make life hell for the other. If you’ve ever lived in college with a random stranger, you probably know what that’s like.

Yet, the greater issue is the equation of Mac or Linux use or the use of a bash shell with potential criminal behavior. Looks like someone at the BC police, the Mass. State Police, and the Middlesex DA need to get a little more familiar with the wide world of computing. And Mac users, Linux users, and all computer science majors at BC need to watch out!

Photo credit: user 96dpi. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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  • Dom, only certain people have access to our campus listservs since an incident last year where one girl e-mailed almost every listserv looking for an apartment for her boyfriend and students hitting reply all caused some students to receive over 1,000 e-mails.  What I’m hearing around campus is that supposedly this student used his position at IT to override that.

  • Dom, I’m a Mac and a Linux user.  Furthermore, I used to be a systems engineer.  If I turned criminal, I might be dangerous.  Pass it along.