Monday, February 22, 2010

Feds investigating school webcam spying case

Not sure how this will play out, but it's hard to see upside for the Lower Merion School District:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is opening a probe into allegations that a US high school used laptop cameras to monitor students.

The investigation is the result of a class action suit filed last week against Lower Merion School District.

For those late to the party, here's the Cliff Notes' version: School issues 1800 laptops to students. Laptops come with webcam and spyware pre-installed. Kid gets in trouble because school administrators see him eating Mike And Ike while he was in his own room. School administrators have picture of kid eating said foodstuff in hte safety and comfort of his own home, presumably in violation of school rules. Kid's parents file class action lawsuit against school.

I'm likely in the wrong line of work. I should go to Law School, and hang out a shingle as a sheister, because here are the uncomfortable questions to ask the school administrators:
  • Who was authorized to remotely monitor students?
  • What sort of background check did you perform on them?
  • What sort of access logging is performed by the school-installed spyware?
  • Is it possible for an administrator to access a student's webcam without this activity being logged?
  • Is it possible for an administrator to save a picture of a student?
  • Can pictures be saved to non-school controlled locations (say, an administrator's home computer or network)?
  • Is there access logging for pictures saved on school controlled locations?
The smart money is betting that these folks don't have good answers to any of these questions.

Now what do you think would happen to a private school where this happened? What do you think would happen to administrators at a private school that did this? Why will none of this happen to the Lower Merion School District?

The Organs of the State do not self-correct. But thanks for all the tax money.


ASM826 said...

And if they captured just one child undressing in the privacy of their own room and that image is discovered on a school server, or an administrator's computer?

It's all fun and games until it's a felony child porn charge.

Srysly, they opened this can of worms over Mike&Ikes?

Borepatch said...

ASM826, it seems that the administrator thought that the candy was drugs. No explanation as to why the administrator was watching the kid.

Jay G said...

You can remotely activate a webcam to send video?


I need a hammer.

TOTWTYTR said...

JayG, if the software allows it or can be hacked, yes. BP no doubt can give us a technical explanation.

So far it looks like the primary federal issue is search and seizure under the 4th Amendment.

BP, a lawyer with an expert's knowledge of computer and internet security could make a lot of money over the next several years. OR a guy with a lot of knowledge of computer and internet security could make a lot of money as an expert witness without the expense of going to law school.

Srsly, get your resume together and start contacting lawyers who specialize in the field of IP and computer security issues.

Anonymous said...

To take a pragmatic look at this, if your kid comes home with a laptop from school, it might be an idea to put a piece of black electrical tape on the lens. That'll f*ck 'em.

Something tells me this would be a good time to invest in Lowe's stock, some people are going to get nailed to the wall over this I think.


KurtP said...

You forgot one question.
WTF is the school giving awy $500 laptops to (I heard)2300 kids?

And a followup question- Are they raising taxes because they're going broke?

Unknown said... conducted a media study among viewers of a news clip featuring a story about a Pennsylvania school that monitored students at home through laptop webcams. Results found that an overwhelming majority of viewers (93%) reported that the school violated students’ rights to privacy. In addition, favorability for school issued laptops for home use declined from an average rating of 4.5 to 3.6 after viewing the video.
More in depth results can be seen at: