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.