Judge Orders School To Alert Students, Parents To Webcam Photos Taken

from the 58,000-photos dept

As the details of more extensive webcam spying by the Lower Merion school district has broken it became clear how much the district tried to hide its activities. Originally, the school suggested it had only taken webcam images 42 times, but the details noted 58,000 photos were taken -- a bit of a difference. Now a magistrate judge has ordered the school district to alert students and parents who were in those photos of their existence, and allow the students to see the images -- though not to get copies of them. The students will actually have the right to view the images without their parents and to exclude "sensitive" photos from being seen by their parents.

Of course, one thing that hasn't been answered yet is how widely this sort of software is used in other schools. When the Lower Merion story broke, we pointed to a PBS Fronline episode where an IT guy proudly showed off similar technology, joking about his ability to secretly spy on kids. This clearly isn't something that was just used in a single school. You have to wonder if other schools are deleting evidence now... or realizing they should be telling their students about what kind of photos they've been storing of students.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    Pick one...

    "(originally, the school suggested it had only taken webcam images 42 times, but the details noted 58,000 photos were taken --"

    Parentheses or double hyphens, you have to pick one. It's like the red pill and the blue pill, you can choose either, but not both....

     

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  2.  
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    Bubba Gump (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 8:21am

    Dark, you forgot the smiley

    (--

     

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  3.  
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    ervserver (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 8:22am

    where is the outrage

    If I were a student with a school issued laptop first thing I'd do is slap a strip of duct tape over the webcam

     

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  4.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 8:24am

    You have to wonder if other schools are deleting evidence now

    You have to wonder if other schools are deleting evidence now

    I dont, they are.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Sarcasm, May 18th, 2010 @ 8:29am

    Not sure what the issue with this is. If you have nothing to hide and doing nothing wrong, who cares if someone is watching you?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Daniel Baker, May 18th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re: Pick one...

    Strunk and White much?

     

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  7.  
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    Robert Ring (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re:

    Can't wait to see how many people reply to this without looking at your name.

     

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  8.  
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    Robert Ring (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 8:33am

    I would love to see a copy of the letter they use for this announcement. I'm sure it goes something like, "Though we can assure you we collected no pictures of a sensitive nature, the court has ruled that we are required to alert you to the existence of these harmless photos."

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Nate, May 18th, 2010 @ 8:34am

    Re: Re:

    You ruined it for him!

     

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  10.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 8:35am

    Re: Dark, you forgot the smiley

    Now you've confused me....

    Is it right and I'm missing something? I don't mean to be a grammar nazi (ha!-- but I hate spending two whole minutes desparately searching for the other parenthasee....parenthasi....whatever....;

     

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  11.  
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    MikeC (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 8:39am

    Not only are they purging pic's ...

    What about the backups (assuming the schools actually run them). Are there any rules about retaining them? They can purge pic's but I figure there could be some interesting subpoena action wanting to look at backup tapes if anything comes out anywhere. You know this is not the only school system doing this. The temptation is just to great, no way to control it. In particular if you consider the mindset of the average school administrator.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2010 @ 8:39am

    Re:

    You seem to miss the point entirely. I don't care why a web cam is watching me without my permission, the fact that it is at all is a serious violation of my privacy.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2010 @ 8:39am

    It's baffling to think that a computer given to a student would retain any originally installed programs/OS for more than a day.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Michael, May 18th, 2010 @ 8:42am

    Re:

    Better yet, we can probably see the reaction of the students and their parents reading this letter. We just have to watch over the shoulder of the school administrator while they watch them on the cam...

     

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  15.  
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    Bubba Gump (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 9:02am

    Re: Re: Dark, you forgot the smiley

    Sorry, I just wanted to make a one-eyed smiley (note that the "eye" might really be considered a nose --

     

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  16.  
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    Bubba Gump (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re:

    Apparently, Robert Ring did not COMPLETELY ruin it for him.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Nate, May 18th, 2010 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re:

    No, no; I think we got it. See, you made it sound like you were non-chalant and didn't care, but then you indicated that you felt the OPPOSITE. It was subtle.

    And I think we all agree with your intention: these kids shouldn't have been spied on. It also seems pretty strong that the capability was used outside the scope of its ostensible use.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2010 @ 9:13am

    Re:

    I notice you're using sarcasm without the written approval from the good folks at SarcMark. I smell a lawsuit......

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2010 @ 9:38am

    Wasn't it stated that the students could not block the camera or change/delete anything on the computer they were given?

     

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  20.  
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    Comboman (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 9:42am

    super DRM?

    allow the students to see the images -- though not to get copies of them

    I was wondering what kind of magic DRM would allow that; then I realized they weren't doing it over the web but must bring them into a room and display them on a screen.

     

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  21.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 9:48am

    Re: Pick one...

    Ugh. That whole opening was a mess. Edited to clean it up. Thanks.

     

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  22.  
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    senshikaze (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 9:56am

    Re:

    it sure wouldn't at my house in high school. i would have had linux on it before i even got off the bus :)

     

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  23.  
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    Berenerd (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 10:17am

    Child Porn anyone?

    There will have to be this issue. All it will take is one twisted individual in a position where they can access such things and poof, there goes our entire educational system. Seriously, what are these schools thinking?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    zealeus, May 18th, 2010 @ 10:23am

    Re:

    It's because administrators- I am one in a Mac school- take measures to prevent this.

    it sure wouldn't at my house in high school. i would have had linux on it before i even got off the bus :)

    Heh, too bad the same software that takes pictures can easily run automated linux scripts to check for that exact thing.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Whisk33, May 18th, 2010 @ 10:37am

    Re: Child Porn anyone?

    I'm surprised this topic hasn't arisen in a much larger degree. Especially considering that this is in PA where the DA has been charging teens with taking revealing photos of themselves...
    It feels like a scenario like this is where the laws should be a lot more relevant.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Satire, May 18th, 2010 @ 10:38am

    Copyright

    Wouldn't the pictures be covered under copyright of the school since the school took them?

     

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  27.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 11:00am

    what really bothers me about the entire mess is the part that says

    The students will actually have the right to view the images without their parents and to exclude "sensitive" photos from being seen by their parents.

    im not generally one to kneejerk react to anything at all, but that kinda leaped off the page at me.
    exactly what kind of "sensitive" images would they have and exactly how is it legal for them to NOT allow the parents to see those images?

     

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  28.  
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    iamtheky (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Pick one...

    "That whole opening was a mess"

    the body is not very tidy either...

    "PBS FronLine"

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2010 @ 11:24am

    Re:

    If you were a teen, would you want some stranger watching you change clothes? Especially if you're a girl?

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    DH's love child, May 18th, 2010 @ 11:53am

    Re:

    Let's go out on a limb here and say the pictures showed them changing clothes, or sleeping nude, or, um, relieving stress.

    Point is, teenagers do things in the privacy of their room expecting it to be, well, private.

    As far as the legality goes, I imagine as the kids are victims, there is no requirement for the parents to be in the room for them to identify pictures of themselves.

     

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  31.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Re:

    "Point is, teenagers do things in the privacy of their room expecting it to be, well, private."

    Please, let's not downplay this. The entire world could be energy independent if we could figure out a way to harness the masturbatory energy of teenagers. For a school to have a window to this is silly....

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2010 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Dark, you forgot the smiley

    Double nosed, then?

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    DH's love child, May 19th, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Please, let's not downplay this. The entire world could be energy independent if we could figure out a way to harness the masturbatory energy of teenagers. For a school to have a window to this is silly...."

    And I am extremely happy that my parents (well, you) also don't have a window into this. :)

     

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  34.  
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    zeiche (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 12:59pm

    Re:

    That leaped off the page for me as well, for how reasonable the judge was towards the children.

    There may be images that could cause discord between the child and the parents, putting the child in further jeopardy (reading an old XY magazine for example). The child is probably traumatized by the invasion of privacy as it is. There is no clear reason to make the child suffer further by having to explain her actions to parents as well.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    byteme, May 19th, 2010 @ 8:45pm

    Speaking of trauma...

    How mortified do you think the kids are going to feel after they are led into a room and allowed to see a collection of photos taken of them in various states of undress and possibly in compromising positions...and then being told, "Oh, by the way, you can't have these and they won't be deleted. Instead, these photos will now be scrutinized by an undisclosed number of individuals and will be kept (likely forever) by the authorities. But, that's okay, it's just for official use and to prosecute the guilty parties. Oh, yeah, they'll likely be proudly displayed to a courtroom full of people, too! Bye, now. Have a nice life."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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