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FBI Probing PA School Webcam Spy Case 312

Posted by Soulskill
from the looking-to-defend-their-turf dept.
On Thursday we discussed news that a Pennsylvania high school was spying on students through the webcams in laptops that were issued to the students. The FBI is now taking an interest in the case, investigating whether federal wiretap and computer-intrusion laws were violated in the process. "The FBI opened its investigation after news of the suit broke on Thursday, the law-enforcement official said. Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman may also investigate, she said Friday." Ferman said her office is "looking to see whether there are potential violations of Pennsylvania criminal laws."
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FBI Probing PA School Webcam Spy Case

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  • Damn Good. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by headkase (533448) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:22PM (#31210486)
    Because the absolute first thing *I* thought when I heard of this atrocity is: "Orwell would be proud."
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:24PM (#31210512)

      Not Orwell, don't overuse it.

      First thing I thought was "Pedobear would be proud."

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The easiest way to create child porn is giving free cameras to teenagers.

        Obviously, the school wants to promote the creation of child porn by giving webcams to their students.

        • Re:Damn Good. (Score:5, Informative)

          by HungryHobo (1314109) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:10PM (#31211254)

          Anyway-
          It seems the whole mess was a storm in a teacup.

          It seems it was just some setup where if a student reported a laptop missing the school which owned those laptops could remotely access it to try to figure out where it was and who was using it.

          1. Did an assistant principal at Harriton ever have the ability to remotely monitor a student at home? Did she utilize a photo taken by a school-issued laptop to discipline a student?

          * No. At no time did any high school administrator have the ability or actually access the security- tracking software. We believe that the administrator at Harriton has been unfairly portrayed and unjustly attacked in connection with her attempts to be supportive of a student and his family. The district never did and never would use such tactics as a basis for disciplinary action.

          2. How were the decisions made to develop the original security plan? Were there/are there safeguards in place to ensure student privacy with regard to use of the security application?

          * Concerned about the security of district-owned and issued laptops, the security plan was developed by the technology department to give the District the ability to recover lost, stolen or missing student laptops. This included tracking loaner laptops that may, against regulations, have been taken off campus.
          * Only two members of the technology department could access the security feature.

          3. Were students and families explicitly told about the laptop security system?

          * No. There was no formal notice given to students or their families. The functionality and intended use of the security feature should have been communicated clearly to students and families.

          4. How many thefts have there been? How many times was the system used? What have been the results in terms of recovery of computers?

          * During the 2009-10 school year, 42 laptops were reported lost, stolen or missing and the tracking software was activated by the technology department in each instance. A total of 18 laptops were found or recovered. This number (18) is an updated number given the information we have compiled today.

          5. What was the total cost of implementation of the laptop program?

          * The approximate cost of each laptop is $1,000 and during the two years of the program, there were 2,620 laptops purchased.

          6. How was funding obtained for the laptop program?

          * Laptops were purchased using a combination of district funds and and Classrooms for the Future grants.

          7. When was the district notified of the allegations contained in the lawsuit?

          * The district learned of the allegations Thursday, February 18th. No complaints were received prior to this date. The district's initial response was posted on the district webpage and communicated to students and parents the same day. The district will not be commenting on the specifics of the plaintiff's complaint, however, outside the legal process.

          8. In the future, will students be required to use district issued laptops?

          * The district believes students received significant benefit from the one-to-one laptop program and has no intention of discontinuing the program.

          9. Is remote access activity by the district logged?

          * Yes. There is a log entry for every instance of the security feature activation. The logs will be reviewed as part of the special review conducted under the direction of special outside counsel.

          10. Can parents return currently issued laptops to the district at this time?

          * They can, but we note that the laptops are an integral component of the educational program in the district. The security feature has been deactivated and there is no reas

          • Re:Damn Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by DJRumpy (1345787) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:45PM (#31211622)

            Of what possible use would a 'camera' be in locating a stolen laptop? Would they be able to identify anything other than a room with 1 or two walls in the background? If they saw a face, would that bring them realistically any closer to an arrest?

            Doesn't it make more sense to triangulate the laptop's position via WiFi, or even via a GPS tracker installed in the hardware?

            The article states that the laptops cost about $1000 each, and that they have had 42 reported stolen, and have recovered 18. It does not state that the security feature was beneficial in that recovery. Given that they've lost $24,000 dollars worth of hardware even with the security software, and that the resulting lawsuits will probably easily be in the 10's or 100's of times that actual loss value, is this even worth the potential litigation risk?

            On page 6 of the class action doc, it specifically says that Lindy Matsko, assistant principal at Harriton High School informed the minor Blake J. Robbins, that he was engaged in improper behavior and she produced a photo of said conduct that was captured from the laptop's cam. The laptop was not reported as stolen, even though the school claims that feature is only activated in the event that a laptop is reported stolen. The parents were not informed of this capability until this incident (rather hard to hide when they produced the picture from the web cam).

            The claim in the class action doc directly refutes the claims by the school.

            The laptops should have never been placed with a student without notifying them of the security software, it's capabilities, or the potential privacy violations. Had they been notified at that time, I doubt the program would have been allowed to continue with said software installed as it appears to violate a number of statutes, listed beginning on page 6 of the class action PDF.

            http://craphound.com/robbins17.pdf [craphound.com]

            • Re:Damn Good. (Score:4, Interesting)

              by dcollins (135727) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @04:41PM (#31212818) Homepage

              "The claim in the class action doc directly refutes the claims by the school."

              Honestly, I think I can read between the lines of the school statement and see how they could be technically correct, although highly misleading (note that it's a rich district, and everyone involved has hired high powered lawyers).

              1. Did an assistant principal at Harriton ever have the ability to remotely monitor a student at home? Did she utilize a photo taken by a school-issued laptop to discipline a student?

              * No...

              Did the assistant principal "have the ability to remotely monitor a student"? Well, no, the monitoring was actually done by an IT staff member who then handed off the picture to the assistant principal. (Note that the FAQ question is NOT "does any staff member have the ability to remotely monitor?")

              Did she utilize a photo to discipline a student? Well, technically no, if there was no school-based punishment, suspension, etc. handed out... according to the report she met with the parents and just threatened future disciplinary measures. (Note that the FAQ question is NOT "did the assistant principal ever produce a photo taken by a school-issued laptop?")

              So I can kind of see this as carefully-chosen weasel words.

              • by theaveng (1243528) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @08:08PM (#31214420)

                I hope that by the time the U.S. Government (FBI) is done with this school, not one concrete block is standing atop another.

                Every single person involved in this should be fired, and the school closed, to be replaced by a better school that is not corrupt.

          • Re:Damn Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by _KiTA_ (241027) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @03:49PM (#31212326) Homepage

            Except the students had seen the cameras come on often enough that they knew how to recognize the symptoms and cover the things with a post it note.

            Kids are nowhere near as stupid as the average adult -- including the average school administrator -- thinks. DOUBLY so with technology.

            There's a reason the FBI is involved at this point. We need to know just who had access to this system, when it was in use, what policies where in places for access, and how often these policies were ignored.

            Yes, we have the school administration's word. Unfortunately, we cannot take them at their word, cause we now know for a fact that they are not trustworthy.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by theaveng (1243528)

              Not all kids were aware they were being spied upon until the story broke. I saw an interview on FOX News* just yesterday where a mom said, "My daughter is worried. She said, 'Mom I have that laptop open all the time. Even when I'm changing. What is they saw me in my underwear or naked?' She is scared of what her teachers might have seen."

              No student, not even one, should have to feel like that.

              *
              * Please don't reject my story just because it came from FOX. ;-)

    • Telescreens (Score:5, Informative)

      by headkase (533448) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:27PM (#31210542)
      Sometimes you're so indignent you don't get it all out the first time: Telescreens, the screen that looks back at you. Orwell'd.
    • Re:Damn Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by trapnest (1608791) <janusofzeal@gmail.com> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:11PM (#31210832)
      You guys know that Orwell didn't want 1984 to be true... right? Orwell would be quite disappointed in us.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Orwell already understood it to be true. 1984=1948

    • Re:Damn Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Animats (122034) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:32PM (#31211454) Homepage

      Let them take away the right to say "Fuck" and you've given up the ability to say "Fuck the Government."

      That's not the problem. As Orwell points out in the appendix to "1984", where he discusses "Newspeak" [netcharles.com], one could say "Big Brother is doubleplus ungood" in Newspeak. But the language for saying why wasn't available. So no one could make a convincing argument against Big Brother. "In Newspeak it was seldom possible to follow a heretical thought further than the perception that it was heretical: beyond that point the necessary words were nonexistent."

      Watch for this phenomenon. It's real. Especially on talk radio.

      • Re:Damn Good. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Scrameustache (459504) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @05:09PM (#31213086) Homepage Journal

        Let them take away the right to say "Fuck" and you've given up the ability to say "Fuck the Government."

        That's not the problem. As Orwell points out in the appendix to "1984", where he discusses "Newspeak" [netcharles.com], one could say "Big Brother is doubleplus ungood" in Newspeak. But the language for saying why wasn't available. So no one could make a convincing argument against Big Brother. "In Newspeak it was seldom possible to follow a heretical thought further than the perception that it was heretical: beyond that point the necessary words were nonexistent."

        Watch for this phenomenon. It's real. Especially on talk radio.

        Now that's just a conspiracy theory. Clearly, you are a nut, for only nuts react with anything for disdain and mockery when presented with a conspiracy theory.

  • FIST... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DamonHD (794830) <d@hd.org> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:23PM (#31210498) Homepage

    ...of common sense.

    Seriously though, as was said on the previous /. thread on this topic: who could seriously have thought that the ability to spy on kids in their bedrooms was (a) a good idea and (b) something to brag about.

    Rgds

    Damon

    • Re:FIST... (Score:5, Informative)

      by jo42 (227475) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:00PM (#31210750) Homepage

      I recently watched a documentary (it may of been BBC's The Virtual Revolution [bbc.co.uk]) where they showed a principle in a New York City area school spying on what his students where doing during the day at school via their school issued laptops. He could see what they where doing on the machine and even them via the webcam. They even showed him taking a snap of a student combing her hair to get her attention as in 'get back to work'.

      • by sjames (1099)

        One wonders what the principle does when he discovers that a student took the laptop with them into the restroom....

      • Re:FIST... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by al0ha (1262684) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:12PM (#31210852) Journal
        One thing I've learned in my life, given the chance, many will choose to do the wrong thing. I used to be cynical so many to me used to be most, but I'm pretty sure most will choose to do the right thing, but many won't. However I also know power corrupts, if only for the reason those who seek power generally suffer from narcissism, so for those with power, perhaps the bell curve is skewed more towards most.
        • Re:FIST... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:50PM (#31211126)

          One thing I've learned in my life, given the chance, many will choose to do the wrong thing. I used to be cynical so many to me used to be most, but I'm pretty sure most will choose to do the right thing, but many won't. However I also know power corrupts, if only for the reason those who seek power generally suffer from narcissism, so for those with power, perhaps the bell curve is skewed more towards most.

          I agree, but it's not so much that power corrupts, but that unaccountability corrupts. If an individual will suffer no consequences for harming another, then you are depending upon that individual's better nature. The problem is ... he or she may not have one. That, in fact, is why we have the rule of law: you may or may not be someone that can be trusted, but the system will hold you accountable. Given that the Feds are involved in this matter, I think that an accounting is exactly what's about to happen.

          • I agree, but it's not so much that power corrupts, but that unaccountability corrupts

            But I think that accountability automatically scales down as power goes up. When powerful people do bad things, usually there are many other people around them who are complicit in some way, or who should've known better, or who should have spoken up, or who just went along because everyone else did so. Eventually you get to a point where people will give you a pass just because the alternative--admitting that every

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hduff (570443)

          One thing I've learned in my life, given the chance, many will choose to do the wrong thing.

          And I've learned that choosing "the wrong thing" frequently leads to no deleterious effects, so it's not necessary to catch and severely punish every instance of "the wrong thing"; most all of it is self-correcting over time.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        They even showed him taking a snap of a student combing her hair to get her attention as in 'get back to work'.

        I can't help but wonder what sort of paranoia and acceptance of privacy violations these practices are going to foster in both current and future generations of school children. I'd like to think that it will create loathing and a strong backlash, but I somehow don't think that will be the case.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Here is the video on PBS. Links directly to the page hosting it. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/learning/schools/how-google-saved-a-school.html . Interesting how it says, "how google saved a school."

    • Re:FIST... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ae1294 (1547521) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:03PM (#31210776) Journal

      who could seriously have thought that the ability to spy on kids in their bedrooms was (a) a good idea and (b) something to brag about.

      Pedophiles?

    • Until I have some more data on this, I won't make an assumption on what happened.

      It's one thing to watch kids on their bedroom, it's another thing to find an image the kid made on his or her computer. I suppose that's exactly what the FBI wants to find out, who made those images?

      These days when people start screaming "Ohmigod! There's pedophiles everywhere!" the school administration should be very careful if they give computers with cameras to the students.

      What if a 15-year-old girl sent a picture of herse

      • by DamonHD (794830)

        Hi,

        I'm *not* assuming that the school staff *were* looking at dodgy images of children in their bedrooms. Not relevant really, though if they *have* been doing it...

        It's the *ability* to do so, and the fact that the parents found out post hoc that is the issue IMHO.

        If I discovered that our school had done this to our child I'd withdraw my child from school immediately AND call the UK Information Commissioner to start an investigation pronto AND ask the school governors to suspend all the staff involved unt

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sizzzzlerz (714878)

      Apologies and remorse are too late. Coulda-woulda-shouda. You guys fucked up big time and you are going to have your asses handed to you. Deservedly so.

    • by MobyDisk (75490) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:59PM (#31210744) Homepage

      VERY interesting.

      Did the district remotely access any laptops which were not lost, missing or stolen?
      No.

      Aha! So why was the laptop reported lost/missing/stolen if the student had it? It seems like the administration had a legitimate reason for turning on the security software! If this is true, it complicates things. I do not fault the school system for putting security software on the system. Especially since they claim that 42 were reported lost/missing/stolen and they recovered 18 of them.

      The details about this will be very interesting...

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Personally I don't buy their story. The odds of catching someone doing something "interesting" (as was reported earlier) when taking a single snapshot have gotta be astronomically low. They also claim that no student was disciplined or this brought up—if so, how did they learn of the tracking software?

      • by tftp (111690) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @03:37PM (#31212194) Homepage

        So why was the laptop reported lost/missing/stolen if the student had it?

        Yesterday's news quoted parents, and they say that the laptop was NOT reported stolen. They obviously wouldn't file a lawsuit otherwise.

        The latest missive from the school is just building their defense. IMO, when FBI or court checks the computers and it turns out that there were other, unauthorized activations of cameras, or a way to bypass logs alltogether, then the people who claimed otherwise can say "we didn't know" and will blame someone who isn't important.

    • by c0d3g33k (102699)
      From the linked article:

      Despite some reports to the contrary, be assured that the security-tracking software has been completely disabled.

      I think completely *removed* would be the only assuring thing they could do. Half-measures like this open up re-enabling in the future, whether by the school district, or someone else who now knows the software is present and has in interest in 're-purposing' it.

    • by poetmatt (793785) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:27PM (#31210956) Journal

      considering that they official said previously that it was never used and are now admitting to less than 50 uses, they're pretty screwed.

  • Despite the fact that the school OWNS the machines, this is just so wrong on so many levels.

    Now that this news is out, kids will stick tape over the cameras, shove gum into them, or worse. On MOST laptops, just plugging something in to the MIC jack disables the built-in mic.

  • by Tanuki64 (989726) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:32PM (#31210576)
    From: http://www.boingboing.net/2010/02/17/school-used-student.html [boingboing.net]

    Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence.

    All people who were responsible for this should be labelled for the rest of their lives as sex offenders with all the consequences. Hey, they could have watched the children naked at home. I am not an American, but from what I hear from news, some people got this sex offender stigma for much more ridiculous incidents. In this case it would make sure that something like this would never happen again.

    • by anyGould (1295481) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:30PM (#31210974)

      That's the part that tickled me - while there may be some (flimsy) justification for using the AV for tracking down lost laptops, where is the justification or authority for disciplining children for activities off school grounds? Amazing how some educators think that they own kids 24/7, just because they sit in their class for an hour a day.

      Simple immediate solution for parents - refuse the laptops. Tell the school that you don't accept spyware in your home. And be vocal about it - school boards will let stuff rot in court for years, but a few weeks on the front page will change their minds ASAP.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nxtw (866177)

        where is the justification or authority for disciplining children for activities off school grounds?

        The justification is in the lack of action against it when it happens. Of the parents who see a problem with this, few make it past the "threaten to sue" stage.

    • by sjames (1099) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:47PM (#31211110) Homepage

      More to the point, they could NOT be sure they wouldn't see the student naked when they turned the camera on.

      If peeing on a dumpster at 2AM can get someone branded as a sex offender because a school (clearly unoccupied at 2AM) happened to be next door then surely any school official that activated a webcam in the absence of a theft report would deserve at least as much.

      If authorities believe that's a bit much, they should also be protesting the branding of non-government employees for much lesser offenses. Especially since school officials should have been much more aware of and sensitive to the potential issues surrounding any dealing with minors.

    • by houghi (78078) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:00PM (#31211194)

      That's the spirit. That is what the law that protect children is for: labeling people as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

      Now for me as long as there is no proof of actual intention of a sexual intention, that is not what should happen even if some images of nude kids were taken in the process. This is, in my opinion, an invasion of privacy and should be handled as such.

      From the way I see people write about it, is that they want to punish these as bad as possible and the fact that breaking privacy won't do that enough says more about how important people value their privacy more then anything else.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        When laws become insane, sometimes the only way to fight back is to have everyone labelled the same way. Remember the writings of the Roman orators on this, and you'll understand the concept even better.

        • by T Murphy (1054674)
          Yeah that works when you start using those insane laws against people who clearly do not deserve it. These people arguably could deserve to be labeled sex offender (I agree with the GP it is better not to), so it wouldn't help with what you want to do.
  • Good deal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LarrySDonald (1172757) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:35PM (#31210590)
    About damn time. I feel a bit pumped that the tide is shifting here, the things we know are immoral are starting to get called on why they're done, even with the best of intentions. There is a slight drift toward "if it's wrong it's wrong and if you had good reasons for it, we'd like to hear them. Don't worry if you need to state them at length, we'll go over them. A lot. Expect follow-up questions". I'm under no illusions that this will change that much, but I'm excited about the direction things seem to be taking and the realizations people seem to be having looking at the other options *couch*china*cough*.
    • Re:Good deal (Score:4, Informative)

      by The Archon V2.0 (782634) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:18PM (#31210904)

      About damn time. I feel a bit pumped that the tide is shifting here, the things we know are immoral are starting to get called on why they're done, even with the best of intentions.

      I think the only reason they're getting nailed for this is because they went so far over the line. A less flagrant violation - one that didn't raise ZOMG KIDDIE PORN fears - wouldn't have caused any uproar.

  • I hope that entire school board gets fired and some should even see some jail time. How can anyone in their right mind think this was a good idea? And how could it get so far without someone on the school board objecting and putting a stop to it.

  • Prey (Score:4, Informative)

    by westlake (615356) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:47PM (#31210664)

    I've seen both commercial and open source webcam enabled anti-theft software advertised for personal use: Prey [preyproject.com]

    I don't know the software well enough to know how it is designed and marketed for business/institutional use. How many of these programs can capture full or stop-motion video.

    This strikes me as a minefield for both the developer and his clients.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lukas84 (912874)

      I don't see the need for all this. There's insurance against theft and using proper full disk encryption, there's no risk of data loss for companies.

      • by hodet (620484)
        that`s what I was thinking. you can steal my laptop and its your brick now. install your own damned OS.
      • Re:Prey (Score:4, Informative)

        by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:43PM (#31211592)

        I don't see the need for all this. There's insurance against theft and using proper full disk encryption, there's no risk of data loss for companies.

        They do require insurance for most students Laptop Insurance [lmsd.org]

        Insurance Information

        • As stated in previous communications, insurance will be $55 per student with a $100 deductible for theft or damage. Families who participate in the Free and Reduced lunch program will have the option to forgo the insurance cost yet still have their student(s) laptop covered under this insurance agreement. However, families in the Free and Reduced lunch program will be required to pay the deductible charge of $100 for each theft, loss, or damage claim.
        • Parents/guardians are encouraged to pay the $55 insurance premium prior to the start of the school year through Paypal. This account can be accessed at http://www.lmsd.org/insurance [lmsd.org]. No uninsured laptops are permitted off campus. If a student without laptop insurance takes the laptop off site and it is stolen or damaged, full replacement or repair cost is the parent/guardians responsibility.
    • by Lord Kano (13027)

      This strikes me as a minefield for both the developer and his clients.

      For some of the clients, perhaps but not the developer. Well, not if he can afford any decent lawyer. There is a legitimate use [dreamindemon.com] for that kind of software.

      LK

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      To be honest, this story sounds like they did almost exactly that.

      Obviously an investigation is needed, but doesnt this situation seem most likely:
      Student reports his school laptop stolen so he can keep it for himself
      School activates anti-theft software (which includes webcam)
      School recieves image of said student, proving he lied to steal the laptop
      School sends letter to student's parents telling them what their child has done.

      Now I don't know if that's true, but frankly it sounds more believable than some

  • Slap 'em down. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mudpup (14555) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:49PM (#31210678) Homepage Journal

    Slap 'em down.
    Make an example of these self important fools.

  • Lojack (Score:5, Informative)

    by florescent_beige (608235) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:51PM (#31210692) Journal

    If they were really interested in theft recovery why didn't they use a system specifically designed for that purpose. Lojack costs $30/year per machine and I'm sure they would have gotten a volume discount.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by AndrewBC (1675992)

      If they were really interested in theft recovery why didn't they use a system specifically designed for that purpose. Lojack costs $30/year per machine and I'm sure they would have gotten a volume discount.

      That's exactly what I was thinking. It almost certainly costs less than paying someone to set up the spycurity software, maintain it, watch kids, and that's not even getting into the lawyer fees and the possible damages.

  • by Ma8thew (861741) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:59PM (#31210740)
    Before we all get carried away decrying this school district, we must bear in mind that almost all the information we have comes from allegations in a lawsuit. The school district are innocent until proven guilty as far as I'm concerned. I have no reason to trust the family's lawyer over the school district's superintendent. The only concrete fact that the two parties agree on is that the laptops have tracking software. The district says they've only used on stolen laptops, while the lawsuit says that it was used in a disciplinary matter. Time will tell which is most accurate.
    • by matazar (1104563) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:14PM (#31210874) Homepage

      A lot of news outlets are quoting the vice principal on this:

      http://americasright.com/?p=3159 [americasright.com]

      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.

      • by OzPeter (195038) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:26PM (#31210944)

        A lot of news outlets are quoting the vice principal on this:

        http://americasright.com/?p=3159 [americasright.com]

        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.

        From the way I read this, a lot of people are quoting the plaintiff's version of what the vice principal said (and probably from the lawsuit), not quoting the vice principal himself. To me that counts as hearsay and is not reliable.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Dachannien (617929)

        It's unclear from this statement whether this means that the school had remotely and secretly activated the webcam, or the student's "improper behavior" somehow involved him using the webcam to capture images which were stored on the hard drive and which the school subsequently accessed.

      • "So in other words, assistant principal Matsko, you admit you were invading the privacy of your pupil?"

    • by westlake (615356)

      The only concrete fact that the two parties agree on is that the laptops have tracking software.

      They agree that the tracking software was not disclosed to the students or their families.

      They agree that the use of the webcam by the tracking software was not disclosed to the students or their families.

      I believe they agree that the software also send screen captures - which opens another can of worms.

      The school - after some un-gentle prodding - admitted that the logs show about 40 uses of the cameras.

      It is no

    • The district says they've only used on stolen laptops

      1) It doesn't matter why they used it, it's illegal if it was used in anyone's home.

      2) The opportunity for abuse is huge and they absolutely should have informed the parents in advance.
  • They claim its used to locate stolen computers and list that 20+ computers (out of 50ish) have been stolen. Unless the laptop is "reported" to the police, as stolen, what does a webcam have to do with locating laptops? IP Addresses, in general, would be sufficient or an embedded GPS device. All visually non-invasive. Webcams could be used as a last resort to identify a thief using a computer. In this case, it looks like this laptop was issued to the kid and the "improper behavior" was obtained from viewin
  • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:08PM (#31210812) Homepage Journal

    Isn't the FBI in charge of invading our privacy, not protecting it?

  • Did the student save a picture of himself eating Mike & Ike candies at home, which a school teacher or official later noticed on the desktop? That would be different than the school remotely viewing him at home. I'm as suspicious of anyone of authority, but lets get the facts straight. This could be the lawyer fishing on the *ability* the school had, not what it actually did. Both are bad, but one is worse.

    The problem for the teacher or whomever is that once they saw the Mike & Ike picture, assumed

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:15PM (#31210886) Homepage Journal

    I am not a lawyer, but I've investigated Supreme Court decisions on rights of students several times. They always start "The student doesn't shed his or her constitutional rights at the schoolhouse doors, but...." and then go on to describe rights of administrators that describe a situation where the students have no rights.

    All the lawyers have to do is describe a reasonable case that the admins were trying to "keep order" in the schoolhouse and this goes nowhere. The Supreme Court has often went out of its way to make school administrators despots in their own little fiefdoms. Anyone that has attended a public school since 1970 knows this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by anyGould (1295481)

      I am not a lawyer, but I've investigated Supreme Court decisions on rights of students several times. They always start "The student doesn't shed his or her constitutional rights at the schoolhouse doors, but...." and then go on to describe rights of administrators that describe a situation where the students have no rights.

      All the lawyers have to do is describe a reasonable case that the admins were trying to "keep order" in the schoolhouse and this goes nowhere. The Supreme Court has often went out of its way to make school administrators despots in their own little fiefdoms. Anyone that has attended a public school since 1970 knows this.

      I think the angle to go with here is that (a) the activities being punished happened off school grounds and on the student's personal time (unless the school wants to start taking responsibility and liability for all actions students take), and thus outside of the fiefdom, and (b) the surveillance extends to persons who are not attending the school (and again, outside the school realm).

  • I cannot imagine--if this did happen as reported--it did not violate laws. If it did NOT violate any federal laws concerning privacy rights, then we need to make sure this IS a violation in the future.

    Another note: If they retrieved one photo of someone underage engaged in a sex act (this includes the "m" word, I assume), they are guilty of manufacturing and distribution of c. p, which means 10+ years in federal prison.

    What were these people thinking when they set this up?
    • I cannot imagine--if this did happen as reported--it did not violate laws.

      How could it not? Doesn't matter what technology you use to do it, either a computer with a webcam or a zoom lens and a slightly-opened curtain or hiding in a closet with a Polaroid, taking pictures of someone without their knowledge or permission while they're in their home is illegal. Hell, just plain old LOOKING without recording it is still illegal.

      Another note: If they retrieved one photo of someone underage engaged in a sex act (this includes the "m" word, I assume), they are guilty of manufacturing and distribution of c. p, which means 10+ years in federal prison.

      Never mind sex act - a person undressing could be enough.

      What were these people thinking when they set this up?

      They were thinking of "security" (actually control in the guise of security) and nothing else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Smauler (915644)

        Hell, just plain old LOOKING without recording it is still illegal.

        Plain old looking is _not_ illegal, depending on the expectation of privacy. Many people's homes sit on widely used roads, and if glancing in at someone as you walk or drive past their house is now a crime, I'd guess just about everyone is a criminal.

    • They were of course thinking of the children!

      In what context ... umm... I'm not gonna touch that with a 10 foot pole.

    • What were these people thinking when they set this up?

      More to the point, if the people who are running our schools have so little capacity for critical thinking, what the hell are they doing in charge of our children's education?

  • The Washington Post has changed the linked article in the last 30 minutes to something about administrators denying everything. Talk about big brother and controlling the masses.

    Orwell Method:

    Link reads -
    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/02/19/us/AP-US-Laptops-Spying-on-Students.html [nytimes.com]

    Link should read -
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/20/AR2010022000679.html [washingtonpost.com]

  • So the FBI shows an interest? Are we sure they don't do it to see how they can get away with invading peoples privacy in the future?

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@aoMONETl.com minus painter> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @04:19PM (#31212610) Journal

    Basically, the constructive possession doctrine in PA says that it is an equivalent situation that the administrators were physically located in the child's bedroom with a camera. This is the same law that is used to charge kids with minor possession of alcohol for simply being in a place where alcohol is present, regardless of whether the minor actually has physical possession of any. The beer may as well have been in their hand, just like the administrators may as well have been in the child's bedroom, where at some point during the constructive possession of the photographic equipment, one can reasonably conclude the child was undressed.

    QED. The administrators are guilty of photographing naked minors by the constructive possession doctrine.

  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @05:09PM (#31213088) Homepage

    Another great reason to homeschool: "State Controlled Consciousness"
    http://www.the-open-boat.com/Gatto.html [the-open-boat.com]
    """
    Schooling is a form of adoption. You give your kid up in his or her most plastic years to a group of strangers. You accept a promise, sometimes stated and more often implied that the state through its agents knows better how to raise your children and educate them than you, your neighbors, your grandparents, your local traditions do. And that your kid will be better off so adopted.

    But by the time the child returns to the family, or has the option of doing that, very few want to. Their parents are some form of friendly stranger too and why not? In the key hours of growing up, strangers have reared the kid.

    Now let's look at the strangers of which you (interviewer) was one and I was one. Regardless of our good feeling toward children. Regardless of our individual talents or intelligence, we have so little time each day with each of these kids, we can't possibly know enough vital information about that particular kid to tailor a set of exercises for that kid. Oh, you know, some of us will try more than others, but there simply isn't any time to do it to a significant degree.

    So what we do is accept and if we don't accept this we are fired or harrassed, we accept the state's prescription that's written in manuals. You do this first, and this second, and this third, and here you have a little latitude to talk to the kid. And the way the state checks on whether you've followed that diet is your standardized tests given at intervals

    If your kids do badly, it does not mean that they're bad readers or anything else. It means they haven't been obedient to the drills the state set down and they're marked for further treatment later on with a mark to be excluded from responsible jobs. Perhaps some way is to be excluded from the colleges that lead to responsible jobs, in other ways from the licenses that lead to responsible jobs.

    This was ALL worked out. It didn't evolve by a lot of rational people saying we'll take this this and this from the past, then the next generation says we'll take this this and this. This was set down largely in a handful of places. Prussia was perhaps the most prominent of those places. The Prussian experiment leapt into the United States almost immediately in the 1840's. Leapt into the United States; its propagandists covered the country here. Its backers, its financial backers set up the most important teacher training institutes and then financed those institutes and then no one was allowed to become a teacher who didn't more or less subscribe to the fact that experts could create a curriculum and pedagogues could administer it.

    Well, that's exactly what Horace, the Roman essayist, talked about in several of his essays. He said, "the master creates the lessons, the pedagogue (the teacher) administers the lessons." But if you find the teacher creating the lessons or deviating from the direction the lessons are headed in, you get rid of the pedagogue.

    But the people who gave us schooling, weren't these wealthy people, they were Utopian thinkers who believed the family and tradition were the greatest obstacles to making a perfect society, a utopia. Every utopia that survived, invents schooling, long before we had universal forced schooling for all these little neighborhood schools. They all invented universal schooling of a homogenous variety in order to reach Utopia.

    Now let's shift to the basis of your question which is Rockefeller and Carnegie and J.P. Morgan. These people saw a different kind of utopia. Through solving the problem of production with highspeed machinery they saw material abundance could be created and that want - first of all, of course, they thought they could become supremely wealthy which they did - but secondarily, they weren't beasts, they thought that this material abundance, since they had abandoned a belief in a Creator or an Afterlife, this material abund

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