Flutterby™! : Administrators peeping on kids

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Administrators peeping on kids

2010-02-18 21:57:54.655848+00 by Dan Lyke 16 comments

Oh, this is rich: Pennsylvania's Lower Merion School District bought laptops for all students, student is suing because apparently the district was snooping on students with the built-in web cams. From the complaint (PDF):

On November 11, 2009, Plaintiffs were for the first time informed of the above-mentioned capability and practice by the School District when Lindy Matsko, an Assistant Principal at Harriton High School, informed minor Plaintiff that the School District was of the belief that minor Plaintiff was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor Plaintiff’s personal laptop issued by the School District.

I really really hope that some students got undressed in front of those web cams and an enterprising DA decides to put school administrators away for a good long time for posession of child pornography. Probably way too much to hope for, but hopefully there'll be some good and hard criminal charges here.

Via MeFi.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Sexual Culture moron ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2010-08-21 11:34:47.675226+00 by: meuon

They all just need a flap over the camera, and a dummy plug in the microphone socket. Personally, I'd setup a firewall with which to detect such activity and if detected record all such accesses. It'd be a great trigger for some pre-arranged scenes in front of the camera and microphone. Crying kids complaining of being forced to do "un-natural" acts.. muttering things about being seduced or molested. Faked phone calls...

#Comment Re: made: 2010-08-18 20:30:16.003226+00 by: Dan Lyke

The measures require students and their parents to acknowledge the policies and consent in writing to any tracking, or give them an option to not participate in the laptop program.

"We could let your kid have the textbooks and materials to take class, as long as you give us the keys to your house and permission to come snoop around at any time, or not. But it's your choice. Really."

#Comment Re: made: 2010-08-18 17:27:23.651226+00 by: m

With the failure of the FBI to allow the aggrieved individuals to obtain criminal redress for the violation of their privacy, the Lower Merion school board has decided to reconstitute its monitoring program. What that program will be is not clear from the article referenced below.

No unauthorized spying will be permitted. What that means, how it will be enforced, what pressure will be exerted on students and parents to preauthorize spying are not described.


#Comment Re: made: 2010-08-17 22:03:24.811226+00 by: m

I would like to say that the failure to file charges is unbelievable, but these days it is all too believable.

Proof of intent? There is no way that anyone can have a rational belief that they can secretly transmit pictures from inside the home of another without a warrant. The phrase "knew or should have known" seems only to apply to those our government calls citizens.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-08-17 18:50:22.535226+00 by: Dan Lyke

And the school district employees got off without charges filed.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-02-22 23:09:33.683067+00 by: m

The family says that the student was confronted about possible drug use with a picture inside his home taken by the webcam. The family says that the administrator mistook a candy for a pill.


#Comment Re: made: 2010-02-22 19:05:26.780825+00 by: Dan Lyke

Some interesting detection work on background and technical details of this.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-02-21 19:45:22.823435+00 by: Dan Lyke

m, if my laptop is stolen and I've got the means to turn on the camera to try to identify those currently in possession of stolen property, I'm going to do so. However, if I loan my computer to someone, I think they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. That stolen/not-stolen thing is a big line in my book.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-02-21 15:43:35.108218+00 by: m

Dan said "I'm not averse to using any mechanism necessary to recover the device"

Any mechanism? How about the invasion of privacy of innocents? Sort of like when the RIAA wanted the right to hack into anyone's computer to see if they were downloading music, and not be responsible for any damage done. How about breaking into someone's house. Or searching everyone's garage for a stolen bicycle?

There are perfectly legal ways to locate a laptop that has been stolen as soon as it has been hooked up to the net. Reporting the IP address and ISP of the current connection provides a mechanism for determining the current physical location, as does a GPS device. There was never a need or rationale for a remotely activated camera. . The school administration now admit that some 42 camera activations have taken place.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-02-21 04:06:01.634808+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Devil's advocate: The school may not be allowed to discuss a student's behavior or record, meaning they could only imply that the machine was reported stolen.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-02-21 00:00:25.25109+00 by: Dan Lyke

If the machine is reported as stolen, I'm not averse to using any mechanism necessary to recover the device, including using the camera to identify users. The school district has said that this is why the tools were included on the computer, but they've carefully avoided saying that this computer was reported stolen.

Which sure makes it sound to me like they've got a sleezy perv as a sysadmin and a power hungry perv as an assistant principal.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-02-20 21:03:28.310131+00 by: m

Even if the facility wasn't used for illicit purposes, it is at least misfeasance to include it on a PC given without warning the students and their parents. It is a gateway towards abuse. Further, software is available for stolen laptops can be identified and located by determining when and where they plug into the net. No image is required. The school's explanation that images are to be used to locate lost PCs is less than reasonable.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-02-19 19:01:21.82745+00 by: meuon

Knowing what I know about the news.. and such letters, is that I expect 3 people know what really happened and they aren't telling.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-02-19 17:47:35.973237+00 by: Dan Lyke

Business Insider: School that spied on students with laptop cameras says it was a security feature, turns it off. And the school's letter to parents.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-02-19 01:46:23.876834+00 by: meuon

I hope some kids college educations get well funded for this one, and some "educators" made an example of what NOT to do.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-02-18 22:43:54.106043+00 by: m

This is only a civil suit, which implies that the local DA was not interested in filing criminal charges. Perhaps the Feds will see it differently, but that is also probably too much to hope for.