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by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
high school, webcam



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.

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  • icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 18 May 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....

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

  • icon
    Bubba Gump (profile), 18 May 2010 @ 8:21am

    Dark, you forgot the smiley

    (--

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

  • icon
    ervserver (profile), 18 May 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

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

  • icon
    weneedhelp (profile), 18 May 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.

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

  • identicon
    Sarcasm, 18 May 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?

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

  • icon
    Robert Ring (profile), 18 May 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."

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

    • identicon
      Michael, 18 May 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...

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

  • icon
    MikeC (profile), 18 May 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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 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.

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

    • icon
      senshikaze (profile), 18 May 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 :)

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

    • identicon
      zealeus, 18 May 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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 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?

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

  • icon
    Comboman (profile), 18 May 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.

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

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 18 May 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?

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

    • identicon
      Whisk33, 18 May 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.

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

  • identicon
    Satire, 18 May 2010 @ 10:38am

    Copyright

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

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

  • icon
    harbingerofdoom (profile), 18 May 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?

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

    • identicon
      DH's love child, 18 May 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.

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

      • icon
        Dark Helmet (profile), 18 May 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....

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

        • identicon
          DH's love child, 19 May 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. :)

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

    • icon
      zeiche (profile), 19 May 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.

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

  • identicon
    byteme, 19 May 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 chronology ]


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