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
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2010 @ 12:58pm

    A former employer would do this all the time. There would be times I would wake up in the middle of the night only to find my work laptop, still in the laptop bag, chugging away working hard on something. Several times, I remember finding the battery worn down to 25%. I caught it in the act one night, and quickly ran a netstat and yep, it had actually connected to one of the major datacenters and was doing something weird.

    Of course, this was at an employer, but it opened my eyes to the fact that this was possible, and the technology has been around for quite some time. But nothing really says "love thy employer" quite like remote management software turning your computer on in the dead night.

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