Tuesday, October 12, 2010

School District Remotely Activated Webcams On Students Computers While They Were At Home; Some Partially Dressed; Lawsuit Settled For $610K

Graphic ripped off from wired magazine article below
"At issue are school-issued Mac laptops provided to 2,300 students at Harriton High School. Unbeknownst to those students and their parents, the laptops were equipped with tracking software that could remotely activate the computer's webcam to take photos of the user, as well as capture screen shots. It was intended as a means to locate lost or stolen laptops, but was apparently activated in more questionable circumstances as well."


PC Magazine - Pa. School District Settles Webcam Spying Case for $610K

"An invasion-of-privacy lawsuit followed, alleging the district had snapped thousands of pictures of its students using webcams affixed to the 2,300 Apple laptops the district issued. Some of the images included pictures of youths at home, in bed or even “partially dressed,” (.pdf) according to a filing in the case. Students’ online chats were also captured, as well as a record of the websites they visited."


Wired - Second Student Sues School District Over Webcam Spying

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Anyone remember a little while ago when I asked the question:

Do Students/Children Deserve Any Privacy?

"When I read the information above, it makes me think of the kind of activity and thought control used in Orwell's 1984...."

"I suppose, if educators know everything a child does they can correct them... What a fine idea to promote healthy lifestyles and healthy choices... but, do we really want children who are being monitored and re-educated? There is a fine line between guidance and control - and too often I believe schools and teachers (and parents) cross that boundary."

I also asked the questions:

"Do you think that teachers and guidance counselors who get lipped off by a teen or child are going to be fully beneficent when dealing with that child's lifestyle database?"

"Do teachers ever inappropriately retaliate against their students?"


I think this case shows just how stupidly and inappropriately teachers and school administrators can act. In many ways the totally paternalistic attitude of schools and teachers toward students is highly problematic. This case shows how easy it is for "in loco parentis" to tip straight into the "loco" part.

It illustrates how people will always push the envelope - not just teachers and school administrators.

If people have the power to do something, they will likely do it. Read these articles and think about work laptops taken home.

Think about the backdoor into encryption and computers that most law enforcement and "National Security" agencies seem to be asking for these days. Your privacy can be easily violated for trivial reasons. It's not just about people getting watched by spy agencies...

Think about how people at insurance companies or the government look up people's information for personal reasons: CBC - FedEx employee decries government privacy breach


Think about the people at the U.S. passport agency looking up Obama's personal information: MSNBC - Passport files of candidates breached; Records of Clinton, McCain, Obama inappropriately accessed, officials say

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And one last link to the laptop/webcam story:

The Telegraph - Students win payout after schools spy on them with laptops
A school authority has agreed to pay out $610,000 (£385,000) after admitting it spied on pupils in their homes through the cameras on their laptop computers.


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Picture credit: Wired Magazine - Second Student Sues School District Over Webcam Spying

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