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. identicon
    Grimwynd, 19 Feb 2010 @ 1:57pm

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

    You are wrong. The video/audio monitoring within the walls of a private home requires court order, or consent of the HOMEOWNER, not the child.

    See, the problem is that the webcam is not monitoring the computer activity alone, but the environment it resides in. No amount of 'notice' to a child can make that right. You are not only invading the child's privacy, but the privacy of anyone in the household.

    Your point of 'the school doesnt need permission' because they own the laptop is totally ignorant. Just because someone (the school) OWNS a camera does not under any circumstance give them rights to take pictures from within a private home merely by informing a minor child that it might be monitored.

    Have you even considered other children or parents in this? The laptop is not only spying on the one informed, but the others that have not been officially informed. And again, the minor child nor the school has the authority to invade the privacy of other potential residents of the household.

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