Remote Activated Webcams In Free Laptops For Student!

US school district spied on students through webcams, court told

Pennsylvania district accused of using remote-control laptops to photograph teenage students at home without their knowledge

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  •, Friday 19 February 2010 13.54 GMT

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A school district in Pennsylvania spied on students through web cameras installed on laptops provided by the district, according to a class action lawsuit filed this week.

Lower Merion school district, in a well-heeled suburb of Philadelphia, provided 2,300 high-school students with Mac laptops last autumn in what its superintendent, Christopher McGinley, described as an effort to establish a "mobile, 21st-century learning environment".

The scheme was funded with $720,000 (£468,000) in state grants and other sources. The students were not allowed to install video games and other software, and were barred from "commercial, illegal, unethical and inappropriate" use.

The district retained remote control of the built-in webcams installed on the computers – and used them to capture images of the students, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court this week.

The ruse was revealed when Blake Robbins, a student at Harriton high school, was hauled into the assistant principal Lindy Matsko's office, shown a photograph taken on the laptop in his home and disciplined for "improper behaviour".

According to Robbins, Matsko said the school had retained the ability to activate the laptop webcams remotely, at any time. Backed by his parents, Robbins filed a lawsuit on behalf of all students provided with laptops by the school.

The suit claims a violation of the privacy and civil rights of the students and their families and accuses officials of violating electronic communications laws by spying on them through "indiscriminate use of an ability to remotely activate the webcams incorporated into each laptop".

It claims that since the laptops were used by students and their friends and family at home, images of "compromising or embarrassing positions, including ... in various states of undress" have been captured. A school district spokesman, Douglas Young, did not return a call seeking comment, but told the Philadelphia Inquirer the district was investigating. "We're taking it very seriously," he said.

In a letter posted on the school district's website, McGinley said the district had installed on the laptops a security feature that allowed the webcam to photograph the computer operator in the event the laptop is lost or stolen. He said that following the suit's filing, the district disabled the feature amidst a review of technology and privacy policies. He said the feature was activated only to help locate a lost or stolen laptop.

 "The district never activated the security feature for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever," he wrote. "We regret if this situation has caused any concern or inconvenience among our students and families."remote s!    

koyptakh koyptakh
51-55, M
6 Responses Feb 23, 2010

ps<br />
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. The amendment specifically also requires search and arrest warrants be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. It was adopted as a response to the abuse of the writ of assistance, which is a type of general search warrant, in the American Revolution. Search and arrest should be limited in scope according to specific information supplied to the issuing court, usually by a law enforcement officer, who has sworn by it.<br />

Hi avalonleppard<br />
In the context of preventing governmental intrusions into personal life, Justice Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the writers of the U.S. Constitution conferred<br />
the right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment.<br />
Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandeis,J., dissenting).<br />

Hi avalonleppard<br />
It is perverted when an individual does something like this but a government agency is acting unconstitutionally. <br />

Hi Lochlee<br />
maybe I need more than one word!<br />
I got this from Wikopedia on Anomie:<br />
"Anomie in common parlance is thought to mean something like "at loose ends." The Oxford English Dictionary lists a range of definitions, beginning with a disregard of divine law, through the 19th and 20th century sociological terms meaning an absence of accepted social standards or values. Most sociologists associate the term with Durkheim, who used the concept to speak of the ways in which an individual's actions are matched, or integrated, with a system of social norms and practices ... Durkheim also formally posited anomie as a mismatch, not simply as the absence of norms. Thus, a society with too much rigidity and little individual discretion could also produce a kind of anomie, a mismatch between individual circumstances and larger social mores. Thus, fatalistic suicide arises when a person is too rule-governed, when there is … no free horizon of expectation."<br />
Are you saying that the behavior of the College was akin to creating a state of anomie where they did not recognize the seriousness of their intrusion into the student's privacy perhaps making life in such a situation unbearable? It is the stuff of science fiction or theatre. It is hard to imagine the thought processes of the people activating the cameras!<br />
Wouldn't it be mindblowing to be disciplined using such "evidence"! <br />

Hi, there :-) One word 'anomie'

Hi KittyChanel<br />
Amazes me people can do that and not think it is wrong on every level!<br />