School Accused Of Spying On Kids In Their Homes With Spyware That Secretly Activated Webcams

from the horrifying dept

A whole bunch of you are sending in this absolutely horrifying story of a school district outside of Philadelphia that apparently gave its students laptops that included hidden software that allowed district officials to secretly turn on the laptops' webcams and monitor student activities, no matter where they were. This all came to light when a student was disciplined for "improper behavior in his home" with the evidence being a photo of the kid from his laptop webcam. The district is now being sued for this. It's rather stunning that anyone thought this was a good idea. Secretly spying on children in their homes when they have a very real expectation of privacy is downright horrifying. It's not hard to see how this could be abused in very dangerous ways.

Update: Yikes. This may be more common than I thought. Julian Sanchez points us to a recent PBS Frontline episode about technology in schools that shows a school official proudly showing off the ability to spy on kids this way (well, using remote desktop emulation, rather than turning on webcams, but many of the kids seem to use webcams a lot). That part of the video starts at 4:37 and even shows him taking a photo of a girl as she does her hair via the camera:
The school administrator seems to think it's funny to spy on kids this way. Wow.

Filed Under: privacy, schools, spying, webcams


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  1. icon
    jilocasin (profile), 19 Feb 2010 @ 10:16am

    It was wrong, and it looks like it's going to be a very short court case.

    This was/is wrong on so many levels, I can't even begin. The good news is it looks like it should be a fairly short case. There are just a few simple questions that need to be answered and then it's all over 'cept the punishment.

    (Questions and answers, that if answered this way would be real bad for the school district.)

    Q. Did the school issue the laptop in question to the minor defendant (MD)?

    A. yes.

    Q. Did the school put software on said laptop that allows the school to surreptitiously view the user remotely?

    A. yes.

    Q. Was MD or parents of MD every notified of the presence or capabilities of aforementioned software?

    A. no.

    Q. Was MD presented with a print out of an image captured with the aforementioned software by the aforementioned laptop?

    A. yes.

    Q. Was the aforementioned laptop located on school property when the image in question was captured?

    A. no.

    Q. Was the permission of either the MD obtained before said image was obtained?

    A. no.

    Judge: I find the defendant guilty of ... .

    The sad thing is that but for an over zealous administrator the parents and children may have never known about this software. Since the administrator presented the student with proof that he had used the software on the laptop in order to justify punishing him for whatever inappropriate thing he believed the student to have done, the school district is going to have a _very_ hard time claiming it was only there/used to track stolen laptops.....

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