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pendell
2010-02-19, 09:02 AM
link 1 (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/02/school-under-fire-for-spying-on-kid-via-webcam-at-home.ars)

link 2 (http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local-beat/School-Spies-on-Students-at-Home-with-Webcams-Suit-84712852.html)



School-issued laptops are becoming more and more common these days, but thanks to the action of one high school, students and parents might have second thoughts about bringing them home. The parents of a Pennsylvania high school student, Blake J. Robbins, have filed a lawsuit against his school district after discovering that school officials had allegedly been remotely accessing the laptop in order to take webcam photos of the students at home (via BoingBoing). There are a number of unanswered questions about this story, but if true, it could mean serious penalties for the Lower Merion School District.

According to the complaint, the school in question (Harriton High School) had issued laptops equipped with built-in webcams to every student so that they could have "24/7 access to school based resources" and the ability to work seamlessly between school and home when it comes to research and projects. In November of 2009, however, Robbins was disciplined by the Assistant Principal of his school, Lindy Matsko, for engaging in "improper behavior" in his home. At that time, Matsko cited a photograph from the built-in webcam on the laptop.


"improper behavior", eh? Well, that'll teach 'em to ******* in front of a laptop :).

It's still a major violation of privacy. Schools have no business spying on a student in his/her own home, regardless of their reasons. The lawyers are gonna have fun with this.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

-- who notes that any issued laptop he receives may have a dreadful 'accident' happen to the webcam and microphone features --

Bouregard
2010-02-19, 09:39 AM
My webcam is always turned to a wall when not in use, yes I'm paranoid.

But I really hope whoever is responsible for that incident get's fired.
Gogo lawyer-powers activate!

thubby
2010-02-19, 09:39 AM
stuff like this is why my webcam faces a wall when not in use.



But I really hope whoever is responsible for that incident get's fired.
Gogo lawyer-powers activate!

fired? i hope they get jailed.

Jack Squat
2010-02-19, 09:46 AM
This is a school issued laptop. Before receiving it, there's was no doubt a terms of agreement. in this case, I don't see a reasonable expectation of privacy.

I mean, don't get me wrong, this is completely messed up that they can essentially wire-tap the kid wherever he's got his computer (which if you're like me is pretty much everywhere), but the kid should know better than to do that stuff on a school computer. His own fault if he got caught. Obviously the situation differs if the act didn't involve his computer.

Some gaffers tape over web cams would have done wonders.

Zanaril
2010-02-19, 10:05 AM
but the kid should know better than to do that stuff on a school computer.


I think you misunderstand, although correct me if I'm wrong. He wasn't doing anything on the computer, he was doing something within view of the webcam. A webcam which he was unaware was taking pictures of him.

I'm now wondering how many students left their laptops on in their rooms while changing their clothes. :smallannoyed:

Asta Kask
2010-02-19, 10:16 AM
I'm now wondering how many students left their laptops on in their rooms while changing their clothes. :smallannoyed:

And how many pictures are now available on the Internet. :smallamused:

Anuan
2010-02-19, 10:17 AM
I think you misunderstand, although correct me if I'm wrong. He wasn't doing anything on the computer, he was doing something within view of the webcam. A webcam which he was unaware was taking pictures of him.

I'm now wondering how many students left their laptops on in their rooms while changing their clothes. :smallannoyed:

Pretty much this. Skunjie, skunjie, skunjieeee...

Asta Kask
2010-02-19, 10:21 AM
Pretty much this. Skunjie, skunjie, skunjieeee...

Skunjie? :confused:

Jack Squat
2010-02-19, 11:03 AM
I think you misunderstand, although correct me if I'm wrong. He wasn't doing anything on the computer, he was doing something within view of the webcam. A webcam which he was unaware was taking pictures of him.

I'm now wondering how many students left their laptops on in their rooms while changing their clothes. :smallannoyed:

All the article says is that he was engaged in "inappropriate behavior at home" and proof was enclosed. To my knowledge, the act itself is not revealed in either article. All I said is if the act involved the computer, such as watching porn, it's the kid's own fault for doing so on a school computer. I completely agree that if the act in no way involved the computer than this goes beyond "No reasonable expectation of privacy" that would come with the computer and would be out of line any way I can think of it.

The same thing can be done with cell phones as webcams and computer mics. Is it right? No, of course not. Can you take steps to limit how it effects you, always.

Phase
2010-02-19, 11:08 AM
Yeah, this is a disgusting infringement upon privacy. I can't imagine the school winning the case, and I'm sure it won't be the last family to file a suit.

thubby
2010-02-19, 11:24 AM
Yeah, this is a disgusting infringement upon privacy. I can't imagine the school winning the case, and I'm sure it won't be the last family to file a suit.

it's a class-action, which means it's already a bunch of the families.

Asta Kask
2010-02-19, 11:25 AM
You have to wonder at the stupidity of the school board. How did they expect anything except a lawsuit.

CollinPhillips
2010-02-19, 11:29 AM
Turning your webcam to a wall? That is so tame. When not in use, my webcam faces my a print out of an infamous image from the web.

BRC
2010-02-19, 11:41 AM
The fact that the School issued the Laptop is irrelevant. This is a Public School. The Police need a warrant to put a wiretap or camera inside somebodies house. I'm not a lawyer, but I have a feeling it doesn't matter if they get the person to unwittingly bring the bug into their house rather than placing it themselves, they still need a warrant to do it. I'm pretty sure a school district doesn't get around that.

Also, I don't think this was the kid using the laptop to do "Improper Behavior", because the articles specified that the vice principle used photographs of this behavior as evidence. Even if the student in question WAS using the laptop Improperly, that dosn't change the fact that they are spying on the students.
The NBC article has this little tidbit


Upon hearing about the incident, Robbins’ father, Michael Robbins, got confirmation from Matsko that the school district does in fact have the ability to remotely activate any of the students’ webcams at any time -- even if the computer is not being used.
So yeah.

deuxhero
2010-02-19, 11:51 AM
The government has spy cameras trained on us? What else is new?

BRC
2010-02-19, 11:57 AM
The government has spy cameras trained on us? What else is new?
They havn't been hiding them very well.

In my day, we could expect some professionalism from Big Brother. Our Lines may have been tapped, but they would come through crystal clear. When government men came to search our houses, they always left things just as they were when they showed up.
Ah well, I suppose standards are dropping everywhere.

TSGames
2010-02-19, 12:08 PM
They havn't been hiding them very well.

They haven't hid the ones we've found very well. Big Brother has shifted to quantity over quality.

Ravens_cry
2010-02-19, 12:08 PM
People here keep saying the kid should have pointed the webcam at a wall, but that's not possible often with lap top built in webcams. They are only moderately adjustable, in my experience.

Tirian
2010-02-19, 12:08 PM
All the article says is that he was engaged in "inappropriate behavior at home" and proof was enclosed. To my knowledge, the act itself is not revealed in either article. All I said is if the act involved the computer, such as watching porn, it's the kid's own fault for doing so on a school computer. I completely agree that if the act in no way involved the computer than this goes beyond "No reasonable expectation of privacy" that would come with the computer and would be out of line any way I can think of it.

From what I've read widely, the agreement that the parents signed was that the surveillance was only to be used if the laptop was stolen or reported missing, and not for ordinary covert spying. I'm not for or against the notion that a school district will spy on you if they catch you watching porn on their computer, but that's evidently just not what happened here.

What I've read somewhat narrowly (so I don't know if it was trustworthy), is that the picture is of the kid eating Mike and Ikes and someone at the school concluding that he was popping drugs. Again, who knows, but there are also reports of students saying that the camera LED would be set off at odd times when the computer wasn't in use, so there does seem to be a significant risk of data mining without probable cause.

Ichneumon
2010-02-19, 12:11 PM
2 questions come to my mind:

1. How could they think they wouldn't get in trouble with violating privacy like this?

2. What actual practical benefit could the school have from spying on their students at home? Seriously.

Jack Squat
2010-02-19, 12:14 PM
The fact that the School issued the Laptop is irrelevant. This is a Public School. The Police need a warrant to put a wiretap or camera inside somebodies house. I'm not a lawyer, but I have a feeling it doesn't matter if they get the person to unwittingly bring the bug into their house rather than placing it themselves, they still need a warrant to do it. I'm pretty sure a school district doesn't get around that.

Actually, it's entirely relevant. The laptop is school property. They're allowed to "tap" their own property without a warrant.


Also, I don't think this was the kid using the laptop to do "Improper Behavior", because the articles specified that the vice principle used photographs of this behavior as evidence. Even if the student in question WAS using the laptop Improperly, that dosn't change the fact that they are spying on the students.
The NBC article has this little tidbit

So yeah.

I'm only under the impression that the child was using the laptop at the time because I can't think that the school would have grounds to suspend someone for something done off-campus that has no effect on school property. That and there's no way they have the resources to monitor all the computers, so they have to have a way to "flag" suspect cases. Easiest way to do this is by monitoring what's going on with the computer, and alert them or record evidence when something pops up.

Again, I'm not saying this is right - I'm appalled by the idea that some school thought this was a good idea and an effective use of resources. However, the kid could have acted smarter in regards to not getting caught.

Also again, none of this applies if the laptop was not involved in the act itself - though either way this event justifies my paranoid approach when it comes to technology.

Tirian
2010-02-19, 12:17 PM
People here keep saying the kid should have pointed the webcam at a wall, but that's not possible often with lap top built in webcams. They are only moderately adjustable, in my experience.

Duct tape. Putty.

Seriously, everybody, if you have a webcam and a microphone attached to your laptop, then you NEED a physical way to disable them when you have not made the conscious decision to use them.

BRC
2010-02-19, 12:34 PM
Duct tape. Putty.

Seriously, everybody, if you have a webcam and a microphone attached to your laptop, then you NEED a physical way to disable them when you have not made the conscious decision to use them.
Most people, especially high school students, aren't paranoids. The fact that they COULD have blocked the webcam doesn't mean they should have known they had to.The problem here isn't that the student's weren't putting tape over their webcams, the problem is that the School was using these webcams to spy on students. On the Ars article, there were quite a few comments about things the students should have done to disable the Webcams, including lots of messing around with drivers and executable files.
It's like if somebody's pocket get's picked, and you say "Well it's your fault for not having your wallet on a chain". Would it have been preferable if they had put their wallet on a chain? Yes it would have. But, the blame isn't on the person whose wallet was stolen, it's on the pickpocket. Pickpocket's arn't a natural force that just occurs if you don't take precautions, they're people making choices and taking actions.

In that same way, if we are living in a world where the fact that you HAVE a webcam means you should assume somebody is going to use it to spy on you, then something is very wrong with the world. It's not like going for a walk in the rain without an umbrella or raincoat and complaining when you get wet.

This type of thinking leads to people thinking "It's okay to use people's webcams to spy on them, because anybody who isn't putting tape over their webcam when they aren't using it deserves to be spied upon".

Rutskarn
2010-02-19, 01:09 PM
Unless "improper behavior" constitutes flogging a kitten to death with a Twizzler, they have absolutely no goddamned business punishing it whatsoever. I don't care if it's their laptop, they're not the kid's moral guardian. If you're giving a kid a laptop and internet access, you can't act all shocked if they get up to something funny with it.

Hell. This isn't just spying, it's entrapment.

pendell
2010-02-19, 01:12 PM
What I've read somewhat narrowly (so I don't know if it was trustworthy), is that the picture is of the kid eating Mike and Ikes and someone at the school concluding that he was popping drugs. Again, who knows, but there are also reports of students saying that the camera LED would be set off at odd times when the computer wasn't in use, so there does seem to be a significant risk of data mining without probable cause.

Can you provide a link? I'd like to read the source and judge for myself. It's an interesting rumor, but absent verification only a rumor.

Certainly the school has the right to punish the student if the student was misusing his laptop to, say, download porn. But I can't understand why the school would need to turn on the webcam to catch misuse of the laptop itself -- isn't that what security software, browser history, and spyware et al are for? I therefore think it overwhelmingly probable that the 'behavior' , whatever it was, was NOT something being done on the computer. Only within view of it.

The school is well within its rights to monitor school-issued equipment. But those rights do not extend to using the web camera features to surveille students in their own home. That's a job for police in possession of a valid search warrant.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

pendell
2010-02-19, 01:18 PM
Update: The School's statement (
http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/19/school-accused-of-using-webcam-to-photograph-student-at-home/)



District laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. The security feature, which was disabled today, was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student.

Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature would be activated by the District’s security and technology departments. The security feature’s capabilities were limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator’s screen. This feature was only used for the narrow purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District never activated the security feature for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever.


Respectfully,

Brian P.

Asta Kask
2010-02-19, 01:20 PM
Most people, especially high school students, aren't paranoids.

Maybe they should be. :smallfrown:

Rutskarn
2010-02-19, 01:21 PM
Update: The School's statement (
http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/19/school-accused-of-using-webcam-to-photograph-student-at-home/)



Respectfully,

Brian P.

Yeah, if that's true, what the hell is up with this?


In November of 2009, however, Robbins was disciplined by the Assistant Principal of his school, Lindy Matsko, for engaging in "improper behavior" in his home. At that time, Matsko cited a photograph from the built-in webcam on the laptop.

This smells of backpedal. Backpedal and lies.

MountainKing
2010-02-19, 01:25 PM
I've got a question for all the paranoid people:

If your webcam bothers you so much due to its inherent potential for being tapped into... then why don't you just *unplug* it when you're not using it? :smallconfused: Or better yet, if it's such a big deal, why even have one at all?

Tirian
2010-02-19, 01:30 PM
Can you provide a link? I'd like to read the source and judge for myself. It's an interesting rumor, but absent verification only a rumor.

Let me redouble my statement that the information was provided as a rumor, but it's buried down in the comments at http://volokh.com/2010/02/18/a-few-thoughts-on-robbins-v-lower-merion-school-district/ (which itself is a very interesting and well-informed discussion of how much trouble the school district may or may not be in). I agree with you that it is quite a puzzle what sort of illicit activity could be proved by a webcam picture such that the school had just cause to take the picture in the first place. I'm sure that somewhere people with all of the information are having some very interesting conversations about it.


Most people, especially high school students, aren't paranoids. The fact that they COULD have blocked the webcam doesn't mean they should have known they had to.

Agreed. I'm not blaming the student in this case. But this is a good object lesson for everyone reading this that your laptop webcam is a source of vulnerability from school-installed malware or virus or who knows what else. Just like you lock your front door when you leave your house, you should disable your camera and microphone at the hardware level when you're not using it.

Asta Kask
2010-02-19, 01:31 PM
This smells of backpedal. Backpedal and lies.

They never activated the feature for any other purpose. What if it was active all along...

Jack Squat
2010-02-19, 01:43 PM
I've got a question for all the paranoid people:

If your webcam bothers you so much due to its inherent potential for being tapped into... then why don't you just *unplug* it when you're not using it? :smallconfused: Or better yet, if it's such a big deal, why even have one at all?

I don't have one, haven't for about a decade now. However, it's getting harder and harder to find laptops that don't have them built in, so unless I build my own from here on out, my laptop that replaces this one will more than likely be equipped with a webcam and mic. Sure it's possible to disable the devices through software means, but I don't know the specifics as to whether or not it can be re-enabled remotely (but I'm betting it can).

Unless you want to go through the pain of taking apart your screen and physically severing the connection to the camera, then reversing it whenever you want to use it, tape or some other temporary obscurant is going to be the best choice. I'd prefer gaffers tape myself, as it doesn't leave a residue.

Far as cell phones, the best choice (besides leaving it behind/not having one) is to physically remove the battery whenever you want to be in private. I do this a couple times a week. I've been doing it since I got the phone in high school. Due to recent events, I may begin only having the battery in when I'm expecting a call, but we'll see...even though all they'll be able to hear is muffled conversations/lectures through my pocket and bad music.

golentan
2010-02-19, 02:18 PM
Well, the claim in the suit is that the school district remotely activated the webcam to take pictures. That's why the school is allegedly violating rights.

Nobody's arguing the school doesn't have a right to track illicit use of their property. The question is whether the school is allowed to use their property as hard spyware against the students. And there the answer should be an unambiguous "no."

The evidence about whether or not that happened has to be unambiguous. The trouble is we don't know because we're only getting a couple of lawyer approved statements pre trial.

If the school has crossed the line, I hope they fry. Maybe they could sell off the laptops for the settlement.

RS14
2010-02-19, 04:13 PM
This is a school issued laptop. Before receiving it, there's was no doubt a terms of agreement. in this case, I don't see a reasonable expectation of privacy.


22. An examination of all the written documentation accompanying the laptop, as well as any documentation appearing on any website or handed out to students or parents concerning the use of the laptop, reveals that no references is made to the fact that the school district has the ability to remotely activate the embedded webcam at any time the school district wished to intercept images from that webcam of anyone or anything appearing in front of the camera at the time of activation.

So, they seem to be claiming otherwise.

Bhu
2010-02-19, 07:59 PM
The FBI is now involved

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_laptops_spying_on_students

Don Julio Anejo
2010-02-19, 09:17 PM
It is my understanding that higher-level laws (e.g. the constitution or the criminal code) override any and all contracts, agreements, disclaimers, etc. If it's illegal to wiretap someone or to violate their privacy, no amount of signing EULA's to use the laptops. And it's certainly illegal to track or wiretap if the student didn't sign agreements. The only reason the school could have for activating the camera if the students + their parents were informed of this possibility and the student him/herself came in to claim a lost laptop and asked for help in recovering it.

Also, I believe evidence like this is inadmissible. Even if the camera clearly shows a student murdering someone in cold blood and then severing the victim's head, the evidence would be inadmissible in a court of law and the case would be thrown out.

Pyrian
2010-02-19, 09:45 PM
:smallconfused: I'm pretty sure that evidence obtained illegally can still be used as evidence that itself was obtained illegally. At least, I hope so, or else such a thing would be very difficult to ever prove! :smallbiggrin:

Don Julio Anejo
2010-02-19, 10:08 PM
Not in court. At best, it can be used to point to other evidence, that can be obtained legally. Or point in the direction of whether it was the butler who did it, since cops would know who the actual killer is.

Pyrian
2010-02-19, 10:24 PM
I don't see how that can possibly be correct. If you can't legally obtain evidence of evidence being obtained illegally when it's the same evidence, then any legal evidence can be made illegal simply by surreptitiously viewing it. You could drive a mac truck through that loophole.

Don Julio Anejo
2010-02-19, 10:30 PM
Well, I'm not a lawyer so uhm.. sue me. Wait, don't :eek:

But it is my understanding that you need to show how evidence was obtained in court and illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible. It opens a different can of worms though - lawyers often mention inadmissible evidence since the jury doesn't care about the technicalities and still take it into consideration. But if all you have is inadmissible evidence, it's almost the same as having no evidence at all, which means the case is more likely than not to get thrown out before it even gets to trial.

thubby
2010-02-19, 10:37 PM
Not in court. At best, it can be used to point to other evidence, that can be obtained legally. Or point in the direction of whether it was the butler who did it, since cops would know who the actual killer is.

that only applies to officers of the court, or those acting on their behalf.
i don't recall the case's name, but there was one where a woman stole an address book (which contained incriminating evidence) from her employer and turned it over to the police. it was admissible because the woman acted of her own accord.

Don Julio Anejo
2010-02-19, 10:38 PM
that only applies to officers of the court, or those acting on their behalf.
Hm so it only means cops can't obtain evidence illegally, everyone else can? Didn't know that, thanks for clarifying :smile:

thubby
2010-02-19, 10:42 PM
Hm so it only means cops can't obtain evidence illegally, everyone else can? Didn't know that, thanks for clarifying :smile:

it's not so clean cut as that (a judge who suspects the police are involved can throw it out, for example, among the rest of the veritable hornets nest of other issues), but yes.

Pinnacle
2010-02-20, 11:17 AM
Hm so it only means cops can't obtain evidence illegally, everyone else can? Didn't know that, thanks for clarifying :smile:

The idea is to stop cops from doing illegal stuff by saying "Look, if you do this we won't even look at it," so that it's not just a matter of if I do this I'll get in trouble but at least we'll get the guy. Police obtaining evidence illegally can only hurt their case, since evidence that could have been obtained legally now can't be.

If individuals who aren't involved in the criminal justice system do something illegal to get evidence to turn in to the police, the police shouldn't be held liable for their crimes. The individuals can generally be subject to criminal charges, though, depending on what they did.


In this case, though, we're talking about the picture being used as evidence that the vice principal was spying. The police will, presumably, acquire the it legally. It's definitely legal evidence against the vice principal and the school.
If the kid actually did something illegal, it probably could be used as evidence against him (or at least as a prompt to look into the situation), but I doubt it will be unless "inappropriate behavior" turns out to be something really serious.


Note that I'm not a lawyer or a police officer, and most of my information comes from basic college courses on this stuff (Criminal Justice was my Minor, since I was considering law school at one time).

Tarnag40k
2010-02-20, 01:07 PM
I will now ask the question that nobody has asked.

Even if they were spying on the child, if him eating candy (which was assumed to be popping pills) while on the lap top, which are two different actions as neither are entirely entwined with each other. On his home property (thus again not school property or under a time while the child was placed under the schools authority from the parents, such as when on a field trip) then why was he even punished in the first place?

The school should not be allow to take authoritian(sp?) actions for actions outside of the school. For all I care the child could run around naked in the next town over, the school would still not have any business in the matter.

The equivalent of this action would be someone who is a citizen in country A breaking country B's laws, while in country C.

They have no business or right to to deal with it.

Pinnacle
2010-02-20, 01:29 PM
I will now ask the question that nobody has asked.

Even if they were spying on the child, if him eating candy (which was assumed to be popping pills) while on the lap top, which are two different actions as neither are entirely entwined with each other. On his home property (thus again not school property or under a time while the child was placed under the schools authority from the parents, such as when on a field trip) then why was he even punished in the first place?

You maybe didn't notice, but we're not talking about exceptionally bright people here.
I doubt the vice principal had any authority whatsoever to discipline the student. Sometimes people with power think they have more of it than they do.

BRC
2010-02-20, 01:59 PM
The only thing I see that they could legitimately punish him for as a School, would be using the laptop in innapropriate ways, E.G. Looking at Porn, or trying to modify it to play games. It's the School's laptop, so they have every right to monitor and restrict that.
So, if this way the vice principle saying "You've been using the school's laptop inappropriately" and showing the kid a copy of his browser history, that would be one thing. But the charge was "Improper behavior".
The question of whether the kid was doing something inappropriate, and used the web cam to take a picture that then got synched to the school's network is irrelevant, because the School has admitted that they CAN use the laptop's webcams to spy on kids remotely. And besides, unless that improper behavior was actually illegal, the school has no right to do anything besides report it to the kids parents, because it didn't occur on school grounds. Of course, that's not the important thing here.

The Important thing is that, even if the feature was only intended to find lost or stolen laptops, it is clear that they're USING it to spy on the students. I also notice that nowhere does the school say that they were NOT spying on the students with this program. They say that they have deactivated a software feature that's supposed to find Lost and Missing laptops (Though I don't see why that would involved taking pictures with the Webcam instead of, say, using GPS or something), and they say that using the laptops to spy goes against what the school district stands for, but they never actually deny anything.

Personally, here's what I think, or maybe I just hope. The software feature is, in fact, supposed to be used to find missing or stolen laptops, as in, if a student reports that their laptop is missing, the administrators can turn on the webcam and using it to find things.
Some idiot who has this privilege, possibly the vice principle in question, decides to play Big Brother. Maybe they have the authority to order some other idiots into helping them, or maybe they have nothing better to do than to randomly switch on kid's webcams and watch what they are doing. Either way, they assume that they are doing nothing wrong, but don't bother telling the higher-ups about this.
So, finally they catch this kid doing something "Improper" at home, snap a picture, and, eager to have a chance to actually excersize the immense power they imagine they have, use the photo as evidence to discipline him.

Now, the reason the School District has been so vague is because the higher ups had no idea this was going on, and they don't want to say anything concrete until they know exactly what happened.

Now, there is talk about the light's turning on being called a "Software Glitch", which means two things.
1.Somebody involved with the spying, possibly an IT guy, was approached with the question "Why do our Webcam lights keep turning on when we're not using them". He knows whats happening is wrong, but he, for some reason, hasn't told the higher-ups, and so he covers it up by saying it's a Software Glitch. This "Sinister Cover Up" theory is broken by the fact that, apparently, somebody with access to these photos openly tried to use one as evidence, apparently unaware that it was wrong.
2. When the kid's started reporting Webcam lights turning on, the person they asked used a quick Occam's Razor, and decided that a Software glitch was more likely than the idea of somebody playing Big Brother, and didn't bother to investigate further.

In the meantime, the School District is trying to figure out exactly who was involved and what happened before they announce anything. Hopefully in a few weeks they will have written up a report and started firing people.

pendell
2010-02-21, 09:37 AM
Seen in The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/20/AR2010022000679.html)


"While certain rules for laptop use were spelled out ... there was no explicit notification that the laptop contained the security software," McGinley said. "This notice should have been given, and we regret that was not done."


Some sort of boilerplate to the effect of 'this is a government system; there is
no expectation of privacy, you may be monitored at any time' is customary. As it is, it appears that the school never notified the students of the possibility of monitoring, also neither they nor their parents signed a consent to such monitoring.

So it appears that the school system can't even bust the kid with the normal security features, let alone the webcam, which would not be
covered by such in any event.

In a way, perhaps it's a blessing for the school system. Even if the *intentions* were good, the *capability* to remotely view students in their
homes is a time bomb. All you need is an unscrupulous admin to start his/her
own pornography racket by turning on the webcam whenever he/she wanted, snapping any , ah , 'particularly interesting' photos, then start marketing them on whatever channels such people use. Eventually, someone would get busted, then the admin would be busted, and then instead of something innocous like this we'd be reading about a child pornography racket.

*At the very least*, this is what needs to happen:

1) The school needs to permanently disable the webcam feature. There's no way to prevent an unscrupulous person from using them for foul purposes. Ergo, for peace of mind and liability's sake the capability should not exist.

2) The school needs to work up some 'official use only' boilerplate as is common in just about every public agency, and which I expect the school
staff themselves had to sign when using their own internal system. The fact that this boilerplate is missing suggests gross incompetence somewhere down the line. If the heads of those responsible isn't decorating the goalposts on the athletic field by next year, they will have no cause to complain about being 'unlucky' ever again.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

_Zoot_
2010-02-22, 06:58 AM
What is worrying (and many have said it before but =P) is that there was a SCHOOL that thought it was ok to spy on kids. These are not people that have any right or need to have this ability, they are not trained to use it properly, they have taken no oaths that they will not misuse this tec, they do not have to ask a magistrate before they install these things. They just use them because they are there and they can, even if they have a good reason for them to be there that kind of ability should not be given to schools, the police or military or some government group that might need the ability maybe, but not a school.

ForzaFiori
2010-02-22, 07:20 AM
For some reason, schools recently have gotten on a huge kick about trying to discipline kids for things that happen outside of school. This is the first time they've actually resorted to spying on people, but in the past year, 2 or 3 kids have had teachers discipline them at school for something they put on facebook from their own home. One girl was suspended for cussing on facebook, and one guy was expelled for "assult" when he said something like "man, practice sucked, I could kill coach right now" after he got home EVEN THOUGH THE POLICE AREN"T CHARGING HIM.

When did the school become my mother? Not only do they have no right to decide what a person can do while off their property, they had no right to be watching a webcam when not invited to do so (receiving notification of it being stolen counts as being invited). That is invasion of privacy! I hope everyone involved in this on the schools end goes to jail for a VERY long time, and that schools finally get the notice that you cannot spy on your kids, and your not so F****** powerful that you get to decide what we do 24/7

Pocketa
2010-02-22, 10:00 AM
This is why we can't have nice things, and I've never bought a webcam. Thanks for scaring me out of Skype.

Roland St. Jude
2010-02-22, 11:04 AM
Sheriff of Moddingham: As much fun as political and legal discussions about rights and crimes and such are, we can't really do them here. Pesky Forum Rules.