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Print 42 comment(s) - last by Hieyeck.. on Feb 24 at 8:45 AM

School district remotely activated webcams of school laptops in student's homes

The use of technology in classrooms around the country is a great thing. Students often find learning much easier and more enjoyable when computers are integrated into the classroom curriculum. Sometimes that same technology can also have serious consequences for students and school districts.

The FBI has officially announced that it is probing a case in which a Pennsylvania school district allegedly activated webcams of school provided laptops that were in use in student's homes without prior consent or warning. The FBI is investigating to determine if the school broke federal wiretap or computer intrusion laws according to an official close to the case.

The FBI became involved in the case when a student and his family filed suit against the Lower Merion school district after the student was allegedly told by school vice principal Lindy Matsko that he was "engaged in improper behavior in his home" with Matsko citing evidence of a photo "embedded" in the student's laptop.

They’re trying to allege that when Blake was holding two Mike & Ikes in his hand, which he apparently loves and eats religiously, that those were pills, and somehow he’s involved in selling drugs,” said the family's attorney, Mark Haltzman.

The district issued Apple laptops to all 2,300 students at two high schools within the district. School officials maintain that the remote activation of webcams is a security feature and is only used to find lost or stolen laptops. According to the district, webcams have been activated remotely 42 times over the last 14 months – 28 laptops have been recovered using the system.

The students reportedly signed documents at school to receive the laptops stating that the webcams could be remotely activated, but the families of the students were not notified. Since the suit was filed, the district reports that it has discontinued the practice of activating webcams.

District spokesman Doug Young, "It's clear what was in place [to notify parents] was insufficient, and that's unacceptable."

Ari Schwartz, vice president at the Center for Democracy and Technology, wondered, "What about the (potential) abuse of power from higher ups, trying to find out more information about the head of the PTA? If you don't think about the privacy and security consequences of using this kind of technology, you run into problems."

Witold Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania hit the nail on the head when he said, "This is an age where kids explore their sexuality, so there's a lot of that going on in the [kid's] room. This is fodder for child porn."



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RE: Did I read that right...student consent?
By ChristopherO on 2/22/2010 11:40:14 AM , Rating: 2
What surprised me is that the AP version of this story listed the high school kids as putting tape on the camera to enforce their privacy...

What happened to the class geeks? Had someone given me a laptop, I would have looked for software they can use to control it and subsequently removed it. Are these "loaners" and thus they're prevented from doing that? If they're not loaners, no one can force you what software you need installed, especially if it can remotely control your PC.

I hope that kid that was caught eating candy gets a paid-for trip to an ivy league school out of this (provided he gets accepted), and maybe the school district gets the privilege of paying off the family's mortgage too. Oh, and everyone loses their jobs, in addition to whomever being brought up on charges. I don't care if it pleas down to community-service, but they need to suffer the indignity of being in court.

And as someone else said -- kids can't sign a consent form. Any adult should have known that. It's an absolutely and totally meaningless document unless the child was 18, and thus not a child. (so maybe 10-20% of the senior class falls into that category?)


By Hieyeck on 2/24/2010 8:45:57 AM , Rating: 2
Um...

I think this says it all: http://www.xkcd.com/538/


"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain











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