School used laptop webcams to spy on students

A federal class action claims a suburban school district has been spying on students and families through the “indiscriminant use of and ability to remotely activate the webcams incorporated into each laptop issued to students,” without the knowledge or consent of students or parents. The plaintiffs say they learned that Big Brother was in their home when an assistant principal told their son that the school district knew he “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.”

The families say the Lower Merion School District issued Webcam-equipped personal laptop computers to each of its approximately 1,800 high school students: in Harriton High School in Rosemont, and Lower Merion High School in Ardmore. The schools issued the computers as part of a “one-to-one” laptop computer initiative lauded by Superintendent Christopher McGinley as an effort that “enhances opportunities for ongoing collaboration, and ensures that all students have 24/7 access to school based resources and the ability to seamlessly work on projects and research at school and at home.”

But the parents and students say that, without their knowledge, the access went both ways. Nowhere in any “written documentation accompanying the laptop,” or in any “documentation appearing on any Web site or handed out to students or parents concerning the use of the laptop,” was any reference 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,” the complaint states…

The school district in fact has the ability to remotely activate the webcam contained in a student’s personal laptop computer issued by the school district at any time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of any persons then and there using the laptop computer.

Defendants include the Lower Merion School District [], the Board of Directors [] of the Lower Merion School District, and Superintendent McGinley [].

What a flock of bureaucratic creeps! It’s damning enough of our social and political culture that the Bill of Rights probably wouldn’t get through Congress, today. But, you would think that preservation of your boring little sinecure, some cardboard closet for administrative ditto machines, would suggest liberty and privacy are overriding concerns when considering a policy as abhorrent as this?

Fire the whole lot. Hold an election. Replace these reactionary dunces with someone who cares about the American Constitution.

Thanks, Cinaedh

3 thoughts on “School used laptop webcams to spy on students

  1. Cinaedh says:

    To me, the most shocking thing about this story is that the school administration people involved – apparently just assumed they had every right to spy on whomever they pleased, whenever they pleased.

    Pre-Bush/Cheney, I’m pretty sure these exact same school administration people would have quite properly feared getting lynched by Republicans, if they ever tried anything remotely resembling this kind of activity.

    Things sure have changed in the USA.

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