Have you ever felt an internal conflict over what appears to be a fairly straight-forward issue? A Slashdot posting I read earlier today is a good example, at least in my view. It describes a high-school prank in which students get back at people they don’t like. The Montgomery County Sentinel describes it this way:
Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that “mimic” those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.
Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.
Yes, I agree that they should not be doing this. But my inner conflict is highlighted nicely by another portion of the news story:
The parent said that “our civil rights are exploited.”
A means to identify drivers who exceed the speed limit should identify the drivers who exceed the speed limit. Automated cameras that take a photo of a speeding car and an automated system that delivers the fine to the car’s owner through the mail, without anyone ever seeing the paperwork as part of the process, is itself a civil rights issue. It also really bothers me that these cameras are not about safety. They’re an automated revenue source for the municipality.
The students are certainly doing something they shouldn’t, but they’re also showing a significant weakness in the system. It’s also incredibly amusing.