Suit: School-issued laptops used to spy on kids on Main Line

Philadelphia Enquirer:

Suit: School-issued laptops used to spy on kids on Main Line

Lower Merion School District officials used school-issued laptop computers to illegally spy on students, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
The suit, filed Tuesday, says unnamed school officials at Harriton High School in Rosemont remotely activated the webcam on a student's computer last year because the district believed he "was engaged in improper behavior in his home."
An assistant principal at Harriton confronted the student for "improper behavior" on Nov. 11 and cited a photograph taken by the webcam as evidence.

The district has issued school-owned laptops to 2,290 high school students, starting last school year at Harriton, in an effort to promote more "engaged and active learning and enhanced student achievement," superintendent Christopher W. McGinley said in a message on the district website.

McGinley and school board president David Ebby did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement on its website, the district said that "The laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. This feature has been deactivated effective today." In a later statement, the district said: "Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the District's security and technology departments. The tracking-security feature was limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator's screen. This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever."

Hmmm . . . . I'll bet that the district did "tell" everybody about the feature, but they sure as hell never mentioned that it could be used to monitor them in their own home.

I'd also be less than shocked if some district staff, perhaps from genuine concern, tried to use the feature to check on a student at home -- but to me that would call for disciplining/firing the staff involved, not a class action lawsuit.

PS -- if your district offers free laptops say, "no thatnks".

[quote="didymus, post:1, topic:187669"]

Hmmm . . . . I'll bet that the district did "tell" everybody about the feature, but they sure as hell never mentioned that it could be used to monitor them in their own home.

I'd also be less than shocked if some district staff, perhaps from genuine concern, tried to use the feature to check on a student at home -- but to me that would call for disciplining/firing the staff involved, not a class action lawsuit.

PS -- if your district offers free laptops say, "no thatnks".

[/quote]

Oh, I think by all means there needs to be a class action lawsuit. In addition, someone needs to look into it to see if wiretapping laws were broker and if so, those responsible should be tried and put in prison.

[quote="wabrams, post:2, topic:187669"]
Oh, I think by all means there needs to be a class action lawsuit. In addition, someone needs to look into it to see if wiretapping laws were broker and if so, those responsible should be tried and put in prison.

[/quote]

Oh, I think there will be a class action suit. On top of that I think that the state does need to look at what laws may have been violated by placing a bug into someone's home.

Really, the question is one of whether the owner of the machine (the school district) has the right to determine the parameters of use of said hardware (the computer). Any ebcam is remotely viewable, if it's enabled and on the internet.

It's easily PHYSICALLY disabled... any of [list]]turn off the computer]place a post-it over the lens*]don't connect it to the internet*]don't use it in non-public areas*]opt not to participate in the loaner laptop program[/list]

[quote="Aramis, post:4, topic:187669"]
Really, the question is one of whether the owner of the machine (the school district) has the right to determine the parameters of use of said hardware (the computer). Any ebcam is remotely viewable, if it's enabled and on the internet.

It's easily PHYSICALLY disabled... any of
[LIST]
*]turn off the computer
*]place a post-it over the lens
*]don't connect it to the internet
*]don't use it in non-public areas
*]opt not to participate in the loaner laptop program
[/LIST]

[/quote]

Yes anyone can access your webcam, but doing so against your knowing (i.e. hacking) is illegal. Seeing as these computers were pre-installed with software by the school district, the user may not be able to disable any of the features. Also, many school districts have mandatory loaner programs and have software of that laptop that must be used for class assignment. Lastly, all of your points are well and good, but that never should excuse someone from literally spying on someone.

Shame on the school district! How are we suppose to expect our kids to know the difference between right and wrong when the adults that are suppose to be teaching them do something like this??

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