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School Spying Scandal Gets Even More Bizarre 699

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the lesson-learned-junkfood-is-bad dept.
Several sources following the recent school webcam spying debacle are reporting that an even stranger twist has surfaced. The student in question that was disciplined for an "improper act" was apparently accused of either drug use or drug selling. Turns out he was eating Mike & Ike candy, not popping pills. While there is probably more to this story than has made it to the general public, the officials involved have done a particularly bad job of actually managing the events.
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School Spying Scandal Gets Even More Bizarre

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  • Ugh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:55PM (#31233186) Homepage

    Yeah...because Mike & Ikes look just like illicit drugs. Completely ignoring the privacy aspect of this story, a school official mistaking freakin' Mike & Ikes for drugs is beyond comprehension.

    http://www.illinoisnut.com/products/mainLarge_1028200752854pm.jpg [illinoisnut.com]

    That looks quite unlike any drug I've ever heard of or seen.

    • Re:Ugh. (Score:5, Funny)

      by binarylarry (1338699) on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:58PM (#31233232)

      Dude these drugs look awesome, where can I get some and how much are you asking?

    • Re:Ugh. (Score:5, Funny)

      by daremonai (859175) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:04PM (#31233338)
      Hey, Mike and Ikes are criminally delicious - this makes perfect sense.
    • by number6x (626555) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:07PM (#31233402)

      The School is in Pensylvania and Mike & Ike's are made in Illinois. This is obviously a case of corporate funding in public schools gone awry! Hershey's will not allow the children of Pennsylvania to be poisened by the corn syrup generated candies of Illinois!

      They are just acting to protect our youth!

      Think of the children.

      • by kaizendojo (956951) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:33PM (#31233848)
        For the record, Mike and Ike candies are manufactured in BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA by the Just Born company - who also makes Peeps, (I know becuase I live about 5 miles from the factory) which makes it even stranger that they wouldn't be able to identify them. The real question that remains unanswered is why officials were viewing through the web cams in the first place - what gave them 'probable cause' to believe that such steps were necessary. Remember, the software was installed to enable them to take a picture of the current user if they believed the laptop was stolen. At no point have they even hinted that they thought the laptop in question was stolen.
        • by nextekcarl (1402899) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:58PM (#31234388)

          Hey, pervs gotta work, too. And rarely do they need a justification for their actions.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Kreigaffe (765218)

          Let's be fair and let's be clear. It's not hard to mistake one product as drugs from a company known to manufacture other highly addictive substances. Peeps are puffed crack.

        • by Maestro4k (707634) on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:40PM (#31235234) Journal

          The real question that remains unanswered is why officials were viewing through the web cams in the first place - what gave them 'probable cause' to believe that such steps were necessary. Remember, the software was installed to enable them to take a picture of the current user if they believed the laptop was stolen. At no point have they even hinted that they thought the laptop in question was stolen.

          I think the answer is a combination of a network admin with a BOFH complex and really, really invasive spyware masquerading as security software. This article [blogspot.com] is very informative, especially this section of a longer video [youtube.com] with the network admin from the school system talking about the software. One thing I noticed in there was his saying that the software could be set to take webcam shots anytime it was booted up and wasn't on a the school network, then upload the photos to the school's server. There you go, instant webcam spying anytime the students take the laptops home, approved or not.

          It's also interesting to note that the theory some people had that the student took webcam shots of himself and that's what the school was using is impossible. The webcam could be not be activated, used or deactivated by the students [saveardmorecoalition.org]. Trying to Jailbreak the laptop to allow you to do things like disable the webcam was an offense punishable by expulsion. Oh, and just for good measure, students weren't allowed to use their own computers at school.

          • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday February 22, 2010 @09:17PM (#31239206)
            Why is a school buying laptops for every student? We can't afford to keep the teachers we do have, class sizes are increasing, many teachers have to buy school supplies out of their own pocket, and yet this school manages to find the funds to buy an expensive web-cam enabled laptop for every student? Most tech companies don't even buy laptops for every worker, it's too expensive. And this is a public school, not even a rich private one.
    • Re:Ugh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:13PM (#31233536)

      Yeah...because Mike & Ikes look just like illicit drugs.

      Additionally I'd argue it's none of the school's fucking business what candy OR illegal drugs the student was taking when he was not at school. If the student were taking poison, committing suicide, then the school officials have a duty to report it and they'd be thanked for that after their jail sentences for being peeping toms.

      • Re:Ugh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:33PM (#31233858)

        Additionally I'd argue it's none of the school's fucking business what candy OR illegal drugs the student was taking when he was not at school.

        Or legal drug. Checking my most recent Prescription reference book, drugs come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Is the school admin a pharmacist? I think not, so what the f*ck does he know? Unless, of course, they look like something the admin is using... :-)

    • Re:Ugh. (Score:5, Funny)

      by sakdoctor (1087155) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:57PM (#31234372) Homepage

      I melt my Mike & Ikes on a spoon, and then load them into a hypo and inject you insensitive clod.

    • Re:Ugh. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Low Ranked Craig (1327799) on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:03PM (#31234480)

      That looks quite unlike any drug I've ever heard of or seen.

      Apparently you missed the 70s...

    • Re:Ugh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by _KiTA_ (241027) on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:44PM (#31235308) Homepage

      Do they honestly expect us to believe they just happened to be looking at this boy in his home at the exact moment he happened to eat his candy, or were they watching him to see if he did anything?

      If the latter, what gives them the right to watch students outside of school property for infractions? They're not police officers, and even if they somehow made the argument that they were... I'd love to see the warrant they had for this.

      At the very least, these people need to lose their jobs. There may also need to be some legal action taken. Perhaps a law specifically prohibiting this sort of thing in the future -- since you know there are little dictator wannabe school administrators out there who think the only bad thing about this story is the school had to stop.

  • To be fair (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jeff4747 (256583) on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:57PM (#31233210)

    To be fair, the "Mike & Ike" claim was made by the kid. And he might be lying.

    But the entire "what exactly was the kid doing" tangent is really just an attempt to justify the school's bad behavior.

    • Re:To be fair (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0racle (667029) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:03PM (#31233314)
      Whether he was doing drugs or not is entirely irrelevant. If he was, there is no legal or moral way for the school to have found out unless he was caught doing it at the school.
      • Re:To be fair (Score:5, Insightful)

        by anyGould (1295481) on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:22PM (#31234876)

        Whether he was doing drugs or not is entirely irrelevant. If he was, there is no legal or moral way for the school to have found out unless he was caught doing it at the school.

        And to take it one step further - even giving the school Maximum Doubtage, if the student was selling illegal drugs, that's a matter for the police; if he's using, that's a matter for doctors and parents etc. In either case, being written up at school the next day is easily the least effective course of action possible.

    • Re:To be fair (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MartinSchou (1360093) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:06PM (#31233384)

      They could have caught him cutting open his little sister for all I care.

      The school claims the system was only used to locate stolen laptops. If the kid's laptop had indeed been reported as stolen to the school, all 'bad things' that it caught (like him masturbating) isn't the school's fault.

      If it HADN'T been reported stolen, then they have no 'get out of jail free card' on seeing him cutting open his little sister. They're still guilty of illegal wire tapping and if they've done it once, it really should be up to them to prove, no-one has been using the system to spy on people.

    • Re:To be fair (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:16PM (#31233588)

      But the entire "what exactly was the kid doing" tangent is really just an attempt to justify the school's bad behavior.

      And that's the crux of the issue. The kid could have been running a meth lab for all that it matters. Public schools are not empowered to engage in warrantless video surveillance of private citizens in their own homes. A school can't even get a warrant. For that, they have to call the police, and the police have to go to a judge. And if there is anyone in the audience who wonders why schools aren't empowered to do this sort of thing, this case should answer that question.

    • Re:To be fair (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sjames (1099) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:16PM (#31233600) Homepage

      Sure, he might be, but so far we KNOW the other side has a history of lying on record (The school board's public statements would make the picture and the disciplinary action impossible, yet both exist).

      For that matter, the school would still be in the wrong even if they had him doing lines in a video. It's just that then they would have the ability to deflect the public's attention away from the issue.

      Really, the Mike and Ike thing is just icing on the cake. It just says that in addition to being creepy, voyeuristic, stupid, and on a power trip, the school system is also suspicious, given to unwarranted leaps of illogic, and blind as a bat.

      • Re:To be fair (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:03PM (#31234478) Homepage

        Lets keep facts seperate from speculation and assumption here.
         

        Sure, he might be, but so far we KNOW the other side has a history of lying on record (The school board's public statements would make the picture and the disciplinary action impossible, yet both exist).

        Absolutely incorrect on both counts, because we do not know how the school obtained the picture. Because of the acknowledged existence of the webcam security software virtually everyone is assuming the picture was obtained by the school via that software, and the plaintiffs are working very hard to make sure everyone makes that assumption - but there has not been one documented statement supporting that fact by either side. Nor was the student disciplined, though he was threatened with disciplinary action.

        • Re:To be fair (Score:5, Insightful)

          by sjames (1099) on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:55PM (#31235526) Homepage

          Let's just say the weight of evidence is not on the school's side. Apparently the principal told the parents the picture came from a webcam on the laptop. We know the picture had to come into existence SOMEHOW and had to SOMEHOW end up in the principal's possession. The student and his parents had to SOMEHOW come to know there was software on the laptop that could remotely activate the camera.

          We know that for some reason the school has chosen not to offer this perfectly reasonable explanation you seem to think exists despite considerable public pressure (not to mention FBI and the DA) that would go away in an instant if they did.

          While in the most literal sense, we cannot with 100% certainty rule out the machinations of evil elves from the 5th dimension, I believe that from a practical standpoint we can say it's not looking good for the school board.

    • Re:To be fair (Score:5, Insightful)

      by billius (1188143) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:32PM (#31233828)

      To be fair, the "Mike & Ike" claim was made by the kid. And he might be lying.

      But the entire "what exactly was the kid doing" tangent is really just an attempt to justify the school's bad behavior.

      Exactly. Even if he was taking pills, there's no way of ascertaining what was in said pills by just looking at a photo, but seeing as how they strip search 13 year-old girls [aclu.org] nowadays for having advil, I'm afraid that this is seeming more and more like par for the course. Even if the pills were illegal, the school had no business monitoring him like that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)

      To be fair, the "Mike & Ike" claim was made by the kid. And he might be lying.

      Which one has more credibility though: the kid, or the school which enacted a horribly invasive home spying program disguised as free laptops? The school essentially lied to hundreds of families in addition to violating their privacy, and then was so stupid they confronted the victims with proof that they were spying on them.

      I'd say even if the kid had a prior drug conviction (which he doesn't appear to), I'd trust his word and judgment over the moronic criminals running his school.

  • excellent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewkNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:59PM (#31233240)

    The news just keeps on getting better and better. The more absurd this story gets, the more it will stand out as an example of why this sort of behaviour is unacceptable.

  • Still can't, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SirBigSpur (1677306) on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:59PM (#31233242)
    I still can't believe anybody but the IT department had access to this, and better yet no one in the IT department thought this might be a bad idea...
    • Re:Still can't, (Score:4, Informative)

      by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:48PM (#31234184)
      Somebody from the IT department sold the school board on this. And the school board claims that only two people in the IT department had access to activate the security software.
      • Re:Still can't, (Score:4, Informative)

        by Maestro4k (707634) on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:44PM (#31235320) Journal

        Somebody from the IT department sold the school board on this. And the school board claims that only two people in the IT department had access to activate the security software.

        And apparently this guy [blogspot.com] is the one who did so, at the very least he's a very, very avid fan of the software, and finds many of the really creepy features appealing. You can find a link to the guy's actual blog from that article too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:59PM (#31233246)

    Really doesn't make much difference. The school shouldn't be punishing kids for taking drugs at home even if they really were doing that. If they came by the information legitimately then their choices are bringing the matter to the attention of the parents, the police, social services or some combination of those. If the information was acquired illegitimately then the choice gets a little harder but I can still see an argument for "we shouldn't know this but we really should let the parents know anyway and fire whoever got us into this mess". \deciding to discipline the student for a non-school related incident though is just completely the wrong move to make.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:00PM (#31233268)

    Apparently the school administration has lost all memory of being teenagers in the 60s and 70s.

    Hint: Drugs do not come in big candy colored shapes. Think powders, small tiny pills, pieces of paper, crude plant material, or crudely rolled cigarettes. FYI, Sweet Tarts and M&Ms are still legal in most states.

    • by commodoresloat (172735) * on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:09PM (#31233448)

      Hint: Drugs do not come in big candy colored shapes.

      I'm guessing you didn't attend a lot of Grateful Dead shows....

    • by BitZtream (692029) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:09PM (#31233450)

      Apparently you don't know what it was like being a kid in the 80s and 90s. Prescription pills are the drugs of choice by most these days, easier to get by with in plain sight, generally easy to come up with an excuse for having on you or taking, only illegal if you don't have a prescription ... which you don't typically carry around with you.

      and ...

      Even less noticeable when you carry them around in a candy box and act completely normal with them.

      You clearly were not part of the crowd who 'did drugs in school', thats probably a good thing, just stop pretending to know what goes on with the kids who do. If you have kids, I suggest you ask them about the drugs in their school rather than telling them about drugs, they'll probably already know more.

  • Wait.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rotide (1015173) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:01PM (#31233280)

    Wait, I thought the school made a statement saying they never ever used the laptop "security feature" for anything besides recovering lost and/or stolen equipment.

    How is snapping a picture of a student, with _no_ stolen laptop, following in line with their stated security policy?

    Ya, we didn't use it for its intended purpose. Ya, we did snoop around to satisfy our curiosity, but.. but.. BUT.. LOOK AT THE DRUGS!

    *Facts presented so far in this case are less than facts until a court rules. I don't claim to know what happened, I'm just a sheep parroting the hearsay I come across.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rary (566291)

      How is snapping a picture of a student, with _no_ stolen laptop, following in line with their stated security policy?

      The school has claimed that the laptop had been reported stolen, and that they therefore enabled the security feature in accordance with their policy.

      How it is possible that the laptop could have been reported stolen when it clearly wasn't has never been explained.

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

        by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:25PM (#31233724)
        Actually, the school has not addressed the issue ofthis picture at all. They say that the security feature that allows them to remotely activate the webcam has only been used on laptops that have been reported stolen. They never admit to using that feature on this particular laptop. The school never addresses the disciplinary issue that led to this law suit. The school doesn't even make a statement saying that they can't address the issues raised about this disciplinary issue. They completely ignore it in their statements.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rary (566291)

          I thought I had read that they stated the laptop had been reported stolen, but looking back on the articles it looks like they only implied it. Specifically, the AP reports:

          The suit does not say if his laptop had been reported stolen, and Young said the litigation prevents him from disclosing that fact. He said the district never violated its policy of only using the remote-activation software to find missing laptops. "Infer what you want," Young said.

          It seems like he meant to imply that the laptop had been reported stolen. Of course, an alternate explanation is that the image that was being used to target the student was not obtained via the webcam spying feature at all:

          According to the suit, Harriton vice principal Lindy Matsko told Blake on Nov. 11 that the school thought he was "engaged in improper behavior in his home." She allegedly cited as evidence a photograph "embedded" in his school-issued laptop.

          This almost sounds like they simply found an image on his hard-drive, and the webcam issue is unrelated. Of course,

  • Underwear check (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:01PM (#31233294) Homepage Journal
    I've mentioned this before, but from this [wikipedia.org]:

    In April 2002, Rancho Bernardo received media attention when one of the school's assistant principals forced female students at a school dance to lift their clothing and expose their underwear, in search of G-strings and thongs. The district said the reason for the check was to "ensure appropriate school dress."[2] Rita Wilson, the assistant principal involved in this incident, was later demoted to a teaching position.[3]

    And it was later discovered that none of the students broke any rules. The rule was that underwear could not be showing. The problem is people making up the rules as they go along, often in secret. Our government for example...

    • Re:Underwear check (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rotide (1015173) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:04PM (#31233346)

      While off topic, your quote makes me weep for that school system. Take a Assistant Principle who can't follow the rules of the school, let alone the law, and put her in a position to _teach_ the kids.

      Not only was that disgusting, the "punishment" is frikkin' SCARY.

    • holey crap, for a school that's only been around for 20 years, they've got a remarkable number of fucked up incidents
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rich0 (548339)

      Glad to see that they know how to hand out punishment!

      If I pulled a stunt like that at a business (inspecting female employee undergarments to ensure compliance with corporate dress code) you can bet that I wouldn't be facing a demotion to a job that pays a professional wage. I'd be lucky not to end up in prison, or with $30M in lawsuits, and I'd almost certainly never get a corporate job anytime in the next three lifetimes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AndersOSU (873247)

      Holy crap, from the wiki:

      # 2 Controversies

      * 2.1 Broomstick incident
      * 2.2 Underwear incident
      * 2.3 Noose incident
      * 2.4 Hacking incident

      Sounds like the school, and possibly the school district needs all new management.

      Also, if we think an administrator was inappropriately inspecting minor's underwear, how does making them a teacher solve a damn thing?

  • by ZipK (1051658) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:01PM (#31233298)
    Do we know for a fact that it was factory-branded Mike & Ike's and not illegally copied or Chinese-bootlegged Mike & Ike-like candy? There's still ample opportunity to tie this story into several other perpetual Slashdot themes.
  • by StreetStealth (980200) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:04PM (#31233344) Journal

    “If you give me a 640x480 JPEG of the most honest of men, I will find something in it which will hang him”

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mkiwi (585287)

      "If you give me a 640x480 JPEG of the most honest of men, I will find something in it which will hang him"

      Personally, I'd like to be hung in one of those new electronic frames that switch the picture every 30 secs, although 640x480 is really pushing the envelope for decent pictures.

  • by Hellasboy (120979) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:06PM (#31233394)

    LOL!
    Oh man... Back in high school, I routinely grabbed a box of mike & ike (pink and white flavor/version) from a vending machine and kept it in my backpack to snack on. One day in class, a kid that sat next to me in the row over saw that I kept putting my hand in my backpack and eating something. So he asked what I was eating.
    Being a jackass, I replied secretly ... "I'm popping steroids"
    Big white and pink pills... huge effin steroids!
    He started yelling in class "Steroids! Steroids! He's popping steroids!!!!" Everyone looks over and I didn't expect that kind of reaction from something pretty comical. Luckily nothing came of it, I just replied really quickly that they're just Mike and Ikes... a few laughs later - everything was fine.

    I would expect a high school student to do something like this. However, a principle of a high school should know better and this mess reeks of incompetence on his part.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WilyCoder (736280)

      I hope the ending of your story is something like "And then I beat that snitch's ass after class that day"...

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:35PM (#31233894)
      These days, some "school resource officer" (yes, schools today have actual full-time cops on duty) would probably have you in handcuffs and standing before a judge for that. The other day I read about an 11-year-old girl who got arrested by her SRO for writing on her desk with a marker. Hire a cop and he has to justify his job, after all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:06PM (#31233396)
    I go to Villanova University, which is 5 minutes by train from Lower Merion. One of my profs has a daughter that goes there (when I showed him the brief on Thursday, he was floored.)

    The Mike & Ike thing is pretty damn bizarre, but it makes sense.

    I expect the school already deleted the logs. Then again, given the tech competence of my own high school (all software and VLKs were on public shares, all documents were accessible [all users] if logged in via RDP, including passwords to the externally hosted attendance/transcript web app, etc.), it would not be terribly surprising if they just saved it all.

    And I was disciplined for taking prescription medication for which the school had a proper release (i.e. I signed the right form and gave a doctor's note saying I needed to have the medication on my person). Nosy administrators "thinking of the children" and overreacting to non-issues (as well as egregious violations of privacy) would be nothing new in my book.
  • by pavon (30274) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:09PM (#31233452)

    It turns out that one of the the network administrators at the school district has a fairly large online presence, and has posted quite a bit relating to this program on his blog over the years. Some folks have started looking over [blogspot.com] the blogs and the software being used, and it is pretty interesting.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hackus (159037)

      Some comments:

      1) I wouldn't do any of these things to anyone, who bought a computer from me.

      2) If the state offered me a trillon dollars to build laptops with software like this I would not do it.
      (Even if they sent me to prison.)

      There are plenty of ways to retrieve a stolen laptop without pictures or this kind of control, which is entirely not required.

      3) It is a sad day when nobody even bothers remembering what tyranny was, and so how unsurprising it begins with scum bags like this to spy on our children j

    • by denzacar (181829) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:42PM (#31234034) Journal

      From the link above: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHu92imqJec [youtube.com]

      Basically, all laptops were set to switch to "stolen mode" as soon as they get online from anywhere outside the school['s network].
      And then they start sending screenshots, camera shots and DNS and IP info on regular basis.

      Apparently, their IT God thought nothing about setting up the laptops kids will be taking home so their home network is considered safe.
      Also, their School's Resident High Inquisitor thought that since the "stolen mode" is on, that means that spying on kids is fair game.

      Brilliant examples of stupidity. Simply brilliant.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Inda (580031)
        He said they recovered two presumably stolen laptops from within a classroom. He also said the 'heartbeat' only worked outside the LAN.

        Double-plus unpossible?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      With some of my colleagues, I began a reverse engineering effort against LANRev in order to determine the nature of the threat and possible countermeasures. Some of the things we found at first left us aghast as security pros: the spyware "client" (they call it an agent) binds to the server permanently without using authentication or key distribution. Find an unbound agent on your network with Bonjour, click on it, you own it. The server software, with an externally facing Internet port... runs as root. I'm

    • by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:57PM (#31234364) Homepage Journal

      Some of those testimonials are very revealing about how the school district abused the webcam:

      "Hi, I'm a 2009 Graduate of Harriton Highschool. [...] I and a few of my fellow peers were suspicious of this sort of activity when we first received the laptops. The light next to the web cam would randomly come on, whether we were in class, in study hall or at home minding our own business. We reported it multiple times, each time getting the response: "It's only a malfunction. if you'd like we'll look into it and give you a loaner computer."

      "The webcam couldn't be disabled due through tough tough security settings. Occasionally we would notice that the green light was on from time to time but we just figured that it was glitching out as some macbooks do sometimes. Some few covered it up with tape and post its because they thought the IT guys were watching them. I always thought they were crazy and that the district, one of the more respectable ones within the state, would never pull some shit like this. I guess I was wrong."

  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info@@@devinmoore...com> on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:28PM (#31233768) Homepage Journal

    What are the odds that they took one picture and it just happened to be of a kid doing drugs? Zero. The big question: how many pictures would you have to take in order to guarantee a picture of a kid doing drugs? Hundreds? Thousands? That's the crime here, all the pics they took where someone was NOT doing drugs.

  • The Real Issue (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MuChild (656741) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:36PM (#31233906)
    As someone pointed out on another site, there are two big problems with the school's position:

    1.) Just because they told the kids that they might activate the web cam to find it doesn't give them the right to do so. If the activity is illegal, telling someone you are going to do it beforehand doesn't make it legal. IANAL, but this one sounds pretty shaky.

    2.)Even if they had the legitimate authority to use the web cam, once they realized that the laptop was in the hands of the right person, they would have been legally obliged to stop spying. Any information they gleaned from that spying would have been inadmissible in court.

    From the posting at that link it looks like the school is on a serious freakout powertrip. Requiring the students to have one of these computers, requiring them to use them to the exclusion of all others and then spying on them periodically even if there was no report of the laptop being stolen.

    The school board and school administration of that town should be burned to the ground with metaphorical salt sown in their professional fields.
  • by Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:37PM (#31233930)
    Why? because most school administrators love overstepping their authority, and being jerks. One the things they have been trying to do is prevent students from eating "junk-food", so given their nature, they would like to try to prevent this at home. At some local schools, they ripped out all the good food and replaced it with "organic" crud. No one ate it, and all just rotted - so they were forced to go back to the "junk-food". School administrators have no checks and balances on their authority, and behave as one would expect. It's a window into what would happen if there were no checks and balances on the president (no supreme court, senate, house, etc.). It should also be noted that some students are actually sick, or were actually sick (me), and needed to pop prescription drugs, including commonly abused ones. I don't want to know what that's like in normal school.

    Glad I'm a homeschooler.
    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:56PM (#31234354)
      The students that actually need to take medication are required to keep a supply of medication in the school office, and travel unescorted from classroom to office every time they need to take it. My daughter has an albuterol inhaler for asthma, and is not allowed to keep it with her in the classroom; instead she must travel to the other end of the school to use it, and is then disciplined if she takes too long to get back to the classroom, or heaven forbid stops to use the restroom on the way back (yes, she was actually written up for using the restroom on the way back from the office.)

      Yes, you're much better off being homeschooled (my kids sisters were, and they came out great). Unfortunately, most families have all parents working, so that option is not available to them. Consider yourself lucky that you have a parent that can afford to spend that kind of time with you.

      School administrators have no checks and balances on their authority, and behave as one would expect. Amen to that... I complained that a teacher was discriminating against my daughter, and pointed out the specific statute that were violating. They responded by slapping me with a restraining order barring me from school grounds and lying about what was actually going on in the classroom (they have admitted verbally, but not in writing, that they were in fact lying). Then, a few weeks later, they ceased the unlawful behavior they had previously claimed was perfectly legal.
  • Chain of evidence (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cs668 (89484) <cservin@cromagnon.com> on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:44PM (#31234080)

    Even if a person were crazy enough to think it was alright to secretly spy on people and then start some sort of punitive process I can't imagine someone taking screenshots really provides any real chain of custody/evidence to keep it admissible.

    Hmmm, let me bust out photoshop or the Gimp, next thing you know your screwing a goat on your desk.

    Real video surveillance systems have to have measures to make sure the evidence has not been tampered with.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nedlohs (1335013)

      It's a school not a court.

      "I think he did it" is good enough in that environment.

  • by molecular (311632) on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:22PM (#31234882)

    I don't understand why we're even talking about what the kid did or did not do at his home.

    School officials have no fucking business sniffing around in other peoples houses. This is just outrageously wrong and illegal. Even if he was taking drugs, the video should not be accepted by any court as prove. Not even the police is allowed to film you in your own home without previous reason.

  • by westlake (615356) on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:30PM (#31237332)

    This in from Computerworld:

    The company selling the software used by a Pennsylvania school district to allegedly spy on its students blasted what it called laptop theft-recovery "vigilantism" today.

    Absolute Software said it dissuades users of theft-recovery software from acting on their own. "We discourage any customer from taking theft recovery into their own hands," said Stephen Midgley, the company's head of marketing, in an interview Monday. "That's best left in the hands of professionals."

    Midgley confirmed that Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa. was running Absolute Manage, formerly known as LANRev, which Absolute Software acquired last December. The suburban Philadelphia school district purchased and deployed LANRev prior to Absolute's acquisition, he said, noting that most school districts buy the software for power management features that let IT staff remotely power down systems.

    Calling LANRev a "legacy" product, Midgley also said that Absolute would ship an update in the next several weeks that will permanently disable Theft Track, the name of the feature that lets administrators switch on a laptop's camera to take photographs of a potential thief after the computer is reported stolen. "It really doesn't serve any purpose," said Midgley of Theft Track.

    All its theft-recovery software relies on a different model than the former LANRev, said Midgley. "We give no theft recovery tools to our [LoJack and Computrace] customers," he said. "The only truly proven model is a managed service model."

    To kick off the recovery of a stolen or lost laptop, customers first must file a police report -- not a requirement of LANRev -- and only then contact Absolute, which in turn tracks the location of the missing machine via its IP address when the system goes online. Absolute employs a team of former law enforcement professionals who reach out to local police, provide them with the location information and then get out of the way. Software maker blasts 'vigilantism' in Pa. school spying case [computerworld.com]

    Absolute Manage [LANRev] Automated Client Management for Mac and Windows Computers and Software [lanrev.com]

    LoJack For Laptops [absolute.com]

  • by shilly (142940) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @07:40AM (#31242822)

    I'm stunned that no-one has mentioned the extraordinary scenes of unethical behaviour on the PBS documentary where a remote spycam feature is being used at another school in the Bronx. My jaw dropped open as I saw (at ~4m50s) the Assistant Principal spy on two schoolgirls and describe how he routinely does this with all 6th and 7th graders ("they don't even realise we're watching" -- he then takes control of the second girl's machine and takes a picture, and we see her duck out of his line of sight. His commentary as he did this had me climbing the walls, it was so unpleasant and -- hopefully -- self-incriminating: "I always like to mess with them and take a picture". What's even worse is seeing the disconcerted look on the girl's face before she ducks and listening to the interviewer laugh -- the interviewer's reaction is a perfect example of how you can get caught up in a moment and fail to maintain independence of mind. You can't be certain from the video where she is -- there's a possibility she's at home. In a beautifully ironic twist, PBS carefully blurred out some of the writing on a whiteboard at ~3m40s, presumably to protect someone's privacy! Of course, they didn't bother to blur out the name of the second schoolgirl who got spied on.

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