The Electronic Frontier Foundation reported over the last couple of days that a Boston College computer science student has been targeted by BC police largely on the basis of using Linux. No, really - I'm serious.
School officials allege that this student sent an email to a school list outing another student as gay. Assuming he actually did this, it's clear that this wasn't particularly nice, professional, or tolerant; I'll leave it to the lawyers to judge whether it was illegal. Regardless, the real problem here is not whether the student was professional or respectful of his peers, but that Boston College police seized several items, citing his use of Linux as probable cause supporting their actions.
According to the EFF,
In his application, the investigating officer asked that he be permitted to seize the student's computers and other personal effects because they might yield evidence of the crimes of "Obtaining computer services by Fraud or Misrepresentation" and "Unauthorized access to a computer system."
Access to the school's computer system would hardly have been unauthorized since the computer science major is employed by the BC IT department and even their warrant application notes that he is considered a "master of his trade among his peers." The warrant application, though, takes on comic proportions as the investigating officer describes the young man's computer system:
Mr. Calixte [the student in question] uses two different operating systems to hide his illegal activities. One is the regular BC operating system and the other is a black screen with white font which he uses prompt commands on.
I'm not saying that Mr. Calixte didn't do anything wrong. It's even possible that the BC police know something we don't. However, their seizure of, among other items, his Ubuntu CD, seems to suggest that not using "BC's operating system" (I was under the impression that Microsoft designed and sold Windows, but perhaps Boston College has an in with the folks in Redmond) is evidence of a crime in and of itself.
The kid's a CS major. Do you think maybe, just maybe, he might be able to navigate a command line in Linux?
A note to all college geeks: be respectful of your fellow students and beware those black screens with white fonts. They're a sure sign of subversive elements. Our parents had long hair, beads, and pot to identify the subversives on campus; we have Jaunty Jackalopes.