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
    C Schmidt, 18 Feb 2010 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re: Other Possibilities

    I am not justifying what they did. It is completely wrong and should never be used in that way. I am just saying that I have seen software that you can put on your laptop that send pictures of when you login and logout so that you can check the pictures if the laptop was stolen and at the time it was free. That was probably the intentions of what it was supposed to be used then it was mis-used like most technologies of this sort. I don't know what size of school it was but small schools don't have a lot of money and using a gps tracking device can be expensive.

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