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Lower Merion School's Report Says IT Dept. Did It, But Didn't Inhale 232

Posted by timothy
from the so-what's-a-few-snapshots-anyhow dept.
PSandusky writes "A report issued by the Lower Merion School District's chosen law firm blames the district's IT department for the laptop webcam spying scandal. In particular, the report mentions lax IT policies and record-keeping as major problems that enabled the spying. Despite thousands of e-mails and images to the contrary, the report also maintains that no proof exists that anyone in IT viewed images captured by the webcams."
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Lower Merion School's Report Says IT Dept. Did It, But Didn't Inhale

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  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by fava (513118) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @03:58PM (#32116328)

    The report was written by the law firm that is defending the school district. Consequently it is attempting to spin everything in the most favourable light to the school district. Any attempt to pin the fault on rogue individuals in the IT department might just be an attempt to minimize liability.

    I simply don't trust the report.

  • whitewash (Score:5, Informative)

    by hduff (570443) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ffudtyoh>> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @04:04PM (#32116410) Homepage Journal

    The "independent" report was written by a law firm hired by the school system.

    The IT guy made forum posts talking about the "security" system.

    The school used the software to do more that locate and retrieve lost or stolen laptops with all this starting because one student was accused of dealing "drugs" (aka Mike & Ike candy) based on a captured image.

    This report is just posturing by adults who should know better but who have stupidly done something unethical and illegal.

    The adults involved should be subject to a "zero tolerance" interpretation of the law. They can make new friends in prison and learn a trade since they won't again be employed in education in their lifetime.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @04:09PM (#32116480)

    God is always watching you.

    No, God is always watching you because you're probably up to no good. For the rest of us it's the "honor system".

  • Grain of Salt (Score:4, Informative)

    by kjs3 (601225) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @04:21PM (#32116698)

    To be clear, this was a report done by a law firm retained by the school district to "investigate" the situation. One shouldn't take it as conclusive or impartial.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by doas777 (1138627) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @04:30PM (#32116834)
    I sympathise with them to a certain extent, but Mike Prebix has been caught on film making statements about how cool it was that he could use this software to observe students without them knowing.

    Additionally there is plenty of evidence that IT staff did view the images as is shown in their emails. the report concludes that "there was no evidence of spying" but acknowledges that there would be no way to obtain evidence that spying was or wasn't happening. there were numerous incidents where the software was engaged, but for no known reason, and several times when it was engaged but there is no record of who made the request, or in some cases, of who actually turned it on.

    it also doesn't lend credibility that they purged the entire LanRev TheftTracker database some months before this issue, destroying much of what would have been evidence in this case.

  • Re:whitewash (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zerth (26112) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @04:39PM (#32116944)

    I like the bit where the report admits the Board members did indeed have knowledge of the tracking, but were too ignorant to realize what that meant, and that any who may have realized that it took pictures thought that it only would take a picture once.

    And because they were ignorant, they didn't think to ask "if you can take one picture, why can't you take more pictures" and "what keeps anybody from doing this whenever they wanted".

    They did, however, think to ask "can we disable tracking for certain laptops?", which is telling, considering that 5 of the 9 Board members have children in the program. Were they concerned somebody might be spying on their kids, or were they just worried because they intended to "lose" the laptops.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:29PM (#32117590) Homepage Journal

    Indeed. The figures from all the countries that aren't stuck the wild west bear it out. It's rare a week passes in England without some silly bugger driving the wrong way up a "motorway" and plowing into a schoolbus.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maestro4k (707634) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:17PM (#32119230) Journal

    Unless the IT department personnel have copies of email threads which include them vehemently opposing this policy, I have little sympathy for them.

    Actually, they have pretty much the exact opposite. It turns out a student intern researched the LanRev software capabilities and was quite concerned about the potential for abuse, and sent an E-mail expressing their concerns to IT management [philly.com]. And of course the "adults" brushed off this student's concerns, and guess what? The student pretty much predicted the entire mess the school system's involved in now ahead of time, they should have listened to them.

  • Re:Boned (Score:3, Informative)

    by twidarkling (1537077) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @08:14PM (#32119966)

    Are you just not familiar with the terms "access" and "control"? That was a ludicrous question that goes beyond hyperbolic. The Governor doesn't have access to school networks and resources unless given to him. It's not his job to do it, either. That's him out on both strikes. On a cursory use of logic, anyone involved with the decision to include the software originally, anyone involved in deploying it, and anyone with a user account capable of accessing that part of the network gets scrutiny. From there, you get to either add or remove people based on evidence.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @01:21AM (#32122600)

    The Toronto District School Board, incompetent, unethical IT group that it is, one of the largest in North America, under the thumb of Microsoft contracts (hence, bleeding the taxpayers for millions of dollars every year, etc...sigh...and includes harassment and threatening anyone who dares suggesting open source linux stuff, etc.), ROUTINELY spies on all students and staff using any computers in schools. MS made sure that 'decision makers' (i.e. power tripping control freaks, e.g. school principals, etc.) could view the screens of any computers in any school, etc. This spying on people by control freaks is ROUTINE in large school boards, thanks to MS junk and 'marketers', etc., playing on the naivite, ignorance, computer illiteracy, etc. of school board officials. No doubt, everyone and his uncle will claim they 'didn't know', or 'didn't understand', or of course, they were 'thinking of protecting the children' from all that bad 'internet stuff', etc.

    Personally, I like Mississippi's idea of enforcing encrypting all email to ensure privacy of communications, etc. such as regular snail mail protections, etc.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Friday May 07, 2010 @04:22AM (#32123600)
    A previous article was posted here that mentioned the LED. Because the webcam is only taking a picture, not recording video, the light is only on for perhaps one second at a time. A lot of the students DID notice this but were told/assumed that it was "glitching out" and chalked it up to hardware malfunction. Apparently a few got paranoid and covered it with tape. (turns out they weren't actually paranoid at all)

    To a computer illiterate user a blinking light probably doesn't attract a large amount of attention.

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