Germany To Put Special Monitoring Software On School Computers To Search For Infringement

from the preserving-monopolies-at-any-cost dept

Just under a month ago, the "Chaos Computer Club" (CCC), which styles itself as "the largest European hacker club", had some disturbing news for Germans:

The largest European hacker club, "Chaos Computer Club" (CCC), has reverse engineered and analyzed a "lawful interception" malware program used by German police forces. It has been found in the wild and submitted to the CCC anonymously. The malware can not only siphon away intimate data but also offers a remote control or backdoor functionality for uploading and executing arbitrary other programs. Significant design and implementation flaws make all of the functionality available to anyone on the internet.
Since then, a debate has raged about the extent to which these technologies are permitted by German law when tackling crime. But now it seems that such electronic spying is being institutionalized further thanks to a deal between the Culture Ministers of the German States and publishers of educational materials that allows school computers to be searched annually for unauthorised copies (post in German on Netzpolitik.org):
There it has been contractually agreed that 1% of school computers [in Germany] shall be investigated with the help of a "school trojan" for "plagiarism", by which is meant copyright infringement.
Nor is this some mere statistical exercise: there will be real consequences for school authorities and teachers accused of having unauthorized copies:
"Upon notice of infractions against this contract's conditions for the reproduction of copyright-protected works, the German States undertake to institute disciplinary measures against the school management and teaching staff involved." Civil and criminal claims of rights-holders naturally remain intact. This then represents a further sanction if, with the help of this sniffer software, teachers are caught copying.
Although the spyware has not yet been introduced, the contract was signed last December and came into force in January this year. It is yet another example of politicians and their advisers agreeing to what look like easy technical fixes to issues, but not thinking through the consequences.

As the Netzpolitik.org article asks: who will be responsible for ensuring that the spy software does its job without breaking the German data protection laws? Has anyone thought about the security issues of introducing this software into schools? Will the software work on all platforms - and if it doesn't, what happens to schools using Macs or GNU/Linux?

Even leaving aside such issues, you have to wonder what on earth the German States' Culture Ministers were thinking when they agreed to allow this gross invasion of privacy of teachers and students. Perhaps they hoped that the fuss would all blow over after a while; in the wake of the other revelations about the German government spying on its citizens through software on their computers, that seems unlikely now.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    John Doe, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 7:27am

    Say it ain't so!

    I thought all of our laws these days were justified to protect the children, now they are targeting the children?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 7:53am

    Didn't we have something like this in the US, and it ended with a lawsuit over students being spied on in their underwear, or something like that?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 7:59am

    And spammers, phishers and identity thieves rejoiced

    Because they really do like it when computers are pre-backdoored for them. Makes it much easier.

     

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    blaktron (profile), Nov 1st, 2011 @ 8:00am

    back in my day...

    If it would have been possible to get the school in troubl by installing pirated software I would have in an instant. I hope thats been taken into account when punishment time comes ..

     

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      Atkray (profile), Nov 1st, 2011 @ 8:53am

      Re: back in my day...

      I had the same thought.

      Also most of the school comps I have come in contact with reset upon power cycle so any infringing installation would be removed the same day it was installed.

      Something about this doesn't add up.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 8:48am

    Past legal rulings have shown the courts' opinion on the expectation of privacy when utilizing company owned equipment. The courts have ruled that there should be no expectation of privacy. In other words, if you are using their computer or network, you should assume everything you do is being monitored, and act accordingly.

     

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    The eejit (profile), Nov 1st, 2011 @ 9:42am

    mmm....

    I love the smell of pre-installed backdoors in the morning.

     

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    techflaws.org (profile), Nov 1st, 2011 @ 11:10am

    Even leaving aside such issues, you have to wonder what on earth the German States' Culture Ministers were thinking when they agreed to allow this gross invasion of privacy of teachers and students.

    Most likely they were clueless enough and could not think it through. Just like Germany's head culture minister Bernd Neumann who did not realize he was played for a fool in an interview when asked what his party would do with the data in case the internet "filled up".

    There's a bunch of clueless newbies at the helm, making laws about stuff they don't know the first thing about.

     

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    hmm (profile), Nov 2nd, 2011 @ 5:46am

    well

    They HAVE to put spyware onto Children's PCs, to help them with their problems (their juicy, firm young problems)

    Cue paedofile lawsuits against the school in 5..4..3..

     

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    hmm (profile), Nov 2nd, 2011 @ 5:48am

    statement by the school governors

    We have supplied computers to every pupil at great expense.

    We now feel a desperate overwhelming need to backdoor some of our pupils in the privacy of their homes.

    [a scuffle ensues and the spokesman is replace]

    Sorry we meant we are going to backdoor the PCs, NOT the pupils....

     

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