School Accused Of Spying On Kids In Their Homes With Spyware That Secretly Activated Webcams

from the horrifying dept

A whole bunch of you are sending in this absolutely horrifying story of a school district outside of Philadelphia that apparently gave its students laptops that included hidden software that allowed district officials to secretly turn on the laptops’ webcams and monitor student activities, no matter where they were. This all came to light when a student was disciplined for “improper behavior in his home” with the evidence being a photo of the kid from his laptop webcam. The district is now being sued for this. It’s rather stunning that anyone thought this was a good idea. Secretly spying on children in their homes when they have a very real expectation of privacy is downright horrifying. It’s not hard to see how this could be abused in very dangerous ways.



Update: Yikes. This may be more common than I thought. Julian Sanchez points us to a recent PBS Frontline episode about technology in schools that shows a school official proudly showing off the ability to spy on kids this way (well, using remote desktop emulation, rather than turning on webcams, but many of the kids seem to use webcams a lot). That part of the video starts at 4:37 and even shows him taking a photo of a girl as she does her hair via the camera:




The school administrator seems to think it’s funny to spy on kids this way. Wow.

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Comments on “School Accused Of Spying On Kids In Their Homes With Spyware That Secretly Activated Webcams”

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190 Comments
Dark Helmetsays:

Re: Re: Nice...

“Can you divulge the names of any of these organizations without getting Mike a perma-ban from the heart of the DMCA?”

That use the Eye of Horus? Sure. Like you said, this case wasn’t an exact replica, although the singular eye being used to represent pervasive wisdom is commonly associated with the Horus Eye. A REALLY quick history lesson is in order:

The Eye of Horus traditionally represents the Egyptian/Gnostic/Heretic (depending on who you ask) God Isis. Some will tell you that Horus is actually Ra, or the sun god, but this use of this singular eye actually represents wisdom gained through the congress of Ra/Osiris and Isis. To make this really easy, Ra/Osiris is the sun, and Isis is Venus. In the sky, over a long enough period, Venus makes a crescent shaped track around the sun, which was considered by pagan cults and the Egyptians to be those two gods making love. They also believed that through sex ultimate wisdom and holiness of a man was attained from the keepers of both, which was women. HOrus was the offspring of Isis and Osiris. Hence, his eye represents wisdom attained.

The effects of this belief can be seen today. That crescent shaped movement around the circular sun is the basis for the devil’s horns in more traditional religions, for instance. Also, worship of Ra/Osiris is the reason the Christian sabbath is celebrated on SUNday; it was a concession made by the Romans when spreading Christianity to pagan areas. The Christmas tree is also pyramid shaped, likely another nod to pagan areas near Egypt. The Shekinah, otherwise known as the star signifying the birth of Christ, is actually a recurring event that can be predicted, because it occurs when Venus and Mars rise early in the morning together in the sky once every couple of thousand years or so, creating a visibly bright star in the morning sky. The entire neolithic culture of Scottland worshiped these star gods, and theoretically brought their beliefs to the Middle East long ago.

In any case, organizations that utilize the Eye of Horus to one degree or another include:

1. The Freemasons
2. The United States Govt. (the eye above the pyramid on currency is accepted to be a representation of the Masonic Eye of Horus)
3. The Rosicrucians
4. The Illuminati (Weishaupt was obsessed with the occult)
5. The Order of Nobles and Mystics

And those are just the ones that specifically use the Horus Eye in their seals or coats of arms (and I certainly didn’t list them all). What’s more odd is how many corporations use some version of the symbol in their logos (though some of these stray further from the original stylization than others):

1. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS)
2. Criterion Film Distributors
3. Viewpoint Corp.
4. British Music Group
5. The United States Information Awareness Office
6. Time Warner (2003)
7. Nat’l Film Board of Canada
8. America Online (Pyramid and eye)
9. Fidelity Investments
10. Toyota

And there’s more. Not that I’m saying that ALL of these companies are somehow involved in some massive conspiracy; that’d be silly. But certainly if you track the stated aims/goals of the Illuminati (which at the very least WERE a very real group, and IMO still are), having a hand in certain companies makes sense. Media, banks, and defense firms are the key ones, along with energy. A quick review of some of the companies on the Countil on Foreign Relations helps, particularly when you realize that the majority of their ownership and/or lending power is created by two or three major banks….

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

If they were peeping into children’s rooms on their own time there is a decent chance that a picture of a naked child was taken. Pictures of a naked child is enough for a kiddie porn charge in PA. Heck pictures of teenage girls in underwear taken by those same girls was enough for charges in PA. This was a really stupid idea with really awful consequences.

Sirhcsays:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t care if they are naked or not, they surveilled the homes of private citizens through video and potentially audio, not just the school kids but anyone else living or visiting the premises where there is an expectation of privacy. If the people who knew this was going on are not criminally punished, I would say that it is a huge black eye for soceity.

TAM Fansays:

Re: Next time

Yeah this really is a great idea, giving an agency of the government the ability to watch you in private. really you have nothing to be concerned about we wont abuse this ability trust us …

The Chief of Police in Houston has stated that he thinks that private homes should have police cameras installed in them to prevent crime. Now wouldn’t that make you feel safer?

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Next time

If he actually said that,

Houston police chief wants cameras on homes, streets
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-02-15-houston-cameras_x.htm
Houston Police Chief Wants Surveillance Cameras In Private Homes
http://www.informationliberation.com/?id=6506

I would be interested to know where he expects to get the funding, not just for the hardware and installation, but the salaries for those who will have to go through all the files and the background checks they will require.

Your tax dollars at work. No price is too high for “security” and “safety”.

Kiljoysays:

Re: Next time

The next time some one says “if you have nothing to hide you shouldnt be concerned about your privacy” point them to this story.

Thinking about it, i have plenty to hide, and so does most people, what is except-able to me may not be to the nut job next to me, and that is a good reason to be on the side of privacy.

Look at the preacher that was found dead with a dildo up his back side. When it come to your home it has to be private or we will be needing to brick up the dam windows soon.

Re: But they did it ...

Sorry, the ends don’t justify the means. It’s wrong. Period.

They could have saved a human life, and I would still say the person responsible for this program should be fired, sued, and socially exiled.

Surveillance isn’t the answer. In the case of your point: the parents are responsible for providing a safe home and are responsible for keeping sex offenders away from their children. The school officials over-extended their bounds.

TAM Fansays:

Re: Forget the lawsuit, jail these people.

Wouldn’t taking pictures of students undressing constitute child pornography?

Of course not, that’s what common sense and selective enforcement are for. Child pornography laws weren’t meant to apply to the government. In fact, congress specifically exempted themselves, law enforcement, judges and so forth just to be sure.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Forget the lawsuit, jail these people.

And do you think pleading ignorance of the existence of pictures of semi-naked kids would really work? Pennsylvania prosecutors would have a field day. If these laptops were purchased with federal money then this could easily be a federal beef.

The Pitch forks and torches are on the way out already.

petesays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Forget the lawsuit, jail these people.

And do you think pleading ignorance of the existence of pictures of semi-naked kids would really work? Pennsylvania prosecutors would have a field day. If these laptops were purchased with federal money then this could easily be a federal beef.

Qualified immunity and sovereign immunity. No charges will be brought to anyone or any government entity.

C Schmidtsays:

Other Possibilities

I believe what they did is wrong but that type of software can be very usefull if a laptop is stolen. Can’t really sue the school if you stole the laptop and then had your picture taken by the webcamera. Probably would be better to use a tracking software but if that is a free alternative school are always looking for ways to save money.

C Schmidtsays:

Re: Re: Other Possibilities

I am not justifying what they did. It is completely wrong and should never be used in that way. I am just saying that I have seen software that you can put on your laptop that send pictures of when you login and logout so that you can check the pictures if the laptop was stolen and at the time it was free. That was probably the intentions of what it was supposed to be used then it was mis-used like most technologies of this sort. I don’t know what size of school it was but small schools don’t have a lot of money and using a gps tracking device can be expensive.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Other Possibilities

According to the school district, this is exactly what happened:

So basically, they’re denying the story.

It’s interesting that they go on to say:

? Do you anticipate reactivating the tracking-security feature?

Not without express written notification to all students and families.

Notice that they’re not saying with the students’ and families’ “consent”.

Kiljoysays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Other Possibilities

Time to tape up that laptop, but wait better yet, don’t use work or school laptop when at home, is this not a well to do area, here at home we have 3 computers so why are the kids using these computers so exclusive?

Yes be paranoid its ok, keeps you safe and sane to know that there is always someone trying to spy on you.

TAM Fansays:

Re: Other Possibilities

I believe what they did is wrong but that type of software can be very usefull if a laptop is stolen.

I don’t see anything wrong at all. It could also be useful to identify some stealing copyrighted material by taking a picture of the actual person using the computer at the time. In fact, I think there should be a law requiring such cameras on all computers for just that purpose. No longer could IP thieves claim “it wasn’t me” when there there’s a picture of them in the act. Of course, the cameras could only be accessed by the RIAA, MPAA or other appropriate industry organization, thus ensuring privacy. I bet we could even get that included in ACTA so that it applies worldwide.

Ranba Ralsays:

Re: Re: Other Possibilities

Of course, you assume that the download is being initiated by the person using the machine. With things like torrent programs and various auto-download scripts, plugins, and programs, they could be running in the background for hours before the download even starts.

Then you run into the problem of determining what is actually IP infringement with an automated capture program. Most of my downloads are my own files, or files made by friends. There’s also plenty of public domain stuff out there that a lot of these file-share programs can and do (legally) access…I for one am not willing to put up with having my picture taken every time I download something just because net piracy is huge and will never truly be stopped.

Re: Other Possibilities

I believe what they did is wrong but that type of software can be very usefull if a laptop is stolen.

i think it was all just a misunderstanding. the students were mistakenly informed that they were being given laptops, when in actuality they were being issued telescreens. clearly, if the children and their families knew they were getting telescreens then they would know that big brother can watch you.

it’s a simple misunderstanding is all. all of the literature for the telescreen program has been updated to reflect the nature of the devices and school system has apologized for any inconvenience.

Nastybutler77says:

Instant humiliation

You know as soon as the students with these laptops heard about this, they immediately started mentally going over all the things they might have done with the laptop open. I know what sort of things I did when I was alone in my room as a teenager, and that would be pretty embarassing to think of the school administrators watching me. I wonder if the lawsuit will include mental anguish damages.

Jessicasays:

Re: If you aren't doing anything wrong...

Are you nuts?? It has nothing to do with proper behavior. These people are wrong. Kids undress in their rooms, would you realy want somebody to have the ability to WATCH them? Regardless of if they do or don’t have anything to worry about its still wrong and a violation of their rights.

aguywhoneedstenbuckssays:

Re: Re: If you aren't doing anything wrong...

Of course they should have the ability to watch them undress! What if they’re undressing for someone on the webcam and the other person can hear their music? Internet strippers, no matter what the age, should have to pay for licenses if people are going to be listening to the music they play.

This just lets them know early on that it’s wrong to do.

Michael Kohnesays:

I'll be fascinated...

to see how this plays out. I REALLY have trouble thinking that people in the administration there really knew about this. As I said to my wife, this blows right past ‘bad idea’ and goes for ‘They could arrest me for this!’ territory.

It will be interesting to see who, exactly, thought this was a good plan and what happens to them. I have to say, if the administration did approve this, I can only hope that someone is looking at filing charges – sneaking a camera into every student’s home is so far over the line that I don’t think it can be ignored.

yozoosays:

I dont buy it!

This story cant be accurate. I refuse to believe that anyone who does not see that spying on anyone else (aside from thier own children where people stop being rational) inside thier home would be deemed morally acceptable not to mention legal (dont we have a basic 4th admendment protection from exactly this type of abuse) would have enough education, not to mention the basic political accumen to be running a school system.

Call me a polly-anna if you wish, but I just dont believe people are that stupid (I know after the election of 2004 that statement got much harder for me, but I still believe it).

aguywhoneedstenbuckssays:

Re: I dont buy it!

Ok Polly-anna. Hey, you asked for it. I’ve always believed that people, as a general rule, are complete morons. I’m pleasantly surprised at times but usually I just get to be right.

Yes, this is EXACTLY the kind of thing the 4th amendment is supposed to protect against. A school district is a government entity (I don’t know whether this is a dependent or independent district, but it’s true either way). This would be the same as the mayor of a city installing peep-hole cameras in people’s houses without telling them.

RDsays:

Not necessarily

“Wouldn’t taking pictures of students undressing constitute child pornography?”

Despite what the fear-mongering media and shrill extreme “Paedo’s are EVERYWHERE!” panic mongering that goes on, just having a nude picture of someone underage would not necessarily be considered pornography. Otherwise, we would be locking most parents up who have pics of their 2 year old in the tub. It takes a sexual component of the image to fall into the child porn area. Though, these days, the bar for that standard gets lower and lower all the time.

This example IS, however, a MASSIVE and illegal invasion of privacy, not to mention it could be construed as borderline paedo behavior.

Mikaelsays:

Re: Not necessarily

I do believe you are mistaken. When talking about the issue at hand, there would be no reason for someone to have a picture of a nude adolescent boy/girl. Infants are one thing, but why would you be taking nude pictures of your 5+ year old if not for inappropriate reasons? There was a case a little while back where teenage girls took pictures of themselves while in their underwear and sent them to some guys. They weren’t even nude and they were charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. This case with the laptops is at a high school. Students in high school are generally from age 14-18. Any nude pictures of those underage students could be considered child pornography.

Think about this too…most teens are full of raging hormones and probably masturbate. What if one was masturbating in front of the laptop while watching something on the internet or a dvd and a school official activated the webcam? There’s a sex offender charge right there.

aguywhoneedstenbuckssays:

Not a fan of class action lawsuits

I’m really not (I believe I mentioned that in the article about Buzz earlier). I don’t know that it’s the right way to go here either. The suit is against the district, who will pay for it using taxpayer money: i.e. money given to them by the people in the suit. I’d like to see criminal charges, firing, and banning the administration (superintendent, principals, and whoever else involved with the decision of putting them out) from being within 500 yards of a school. I would also like to see the civil suit aimed at these people instead of the school district.

Dereksays:

What's really scary...

I’m not one for the “OMG the children, they’re special snowflakes!” mentality, but in this case the fact that children are victimized is especially awful. Still, we should recognize that this is an egregious violation regardless of the age of the victims.

What’s really churning in the pit of my stomach, is that there are people at this school, people in charge of education, who felt that this kind of Orwellian nightmare was the right thing to do.

That attitude makes for a really, really shitty school. And trying so preciously hard to protect (or catch) kids being kids just gives rise to self-centered assholes.

Anonymoussays:

I don't see how this genuinely fixes any problem

This is why I have a post-it note that reads “What’s Your Business Impact? Microsoft IT” covering the webcam on my very useful, and very much not-spying-on-me Macbook.

When I need to do some impacting, I make it a point to use only the oldest, XP SP 1, non-registered, non-genuine Windows 7 in a VM. But if I need do some major impacting, I’ll bring out the Vista if you know what I mean. I can impact for about a month, or use IE 6 for about a week before I have to either ask what my business impacting skills are or re-install windows.

Daniel Panichellisays:

Lower Merion

This is actually my high school.
Their isn’t new, they’ve been using Apple Remote Desktop to do this within their school for years.
Only recently did they allow students to take their macbooks home, thus bringing this issue to light.

Horrifying yes.
New, no. This has been going on for at least 4-5 years.

in what way is this NOT child molestation?

Presumably the laptop is in the child’s bedroom, where they get dressed — how could anyone be stupid enough to think this was OK for any reason whatsoever? This is beyond an invasion of privacy, this is somewhere between child pornography and sexual abuse.

I wonder if anyone’s checked the school restroom stalls and P.E. showers to see if there are any hidden cameras there.

Anonymoussays:

Re: School today

Stories like this really make me wish that I was going to high school in this day and age. I was a malcontent back then, always against the man…

Was?

Buddy, you post on Techdirt! This is where juvenile, damn-the-man malcontents come to roost!

With that said, this story is disgusting and almost laughably, nihilistically, unbelievable and I hope the people responsible are put in jail cells equipped with 24 hour webcams so the students and parents can see what their newly jumpsuited, old voyeurs are up to any time they want.

TAM Fansays:

Re: Re: Video of something similar

He said that 6’th and 7’th grade always has the camera on.

See, what did I tell you? They’re just looking after the kids. That’s right around puberty. That’s the best time to head off “inappropriate behavior” that may be starting about that time, if you know what I mean.

Grimwyndsays:

Re: Re: Re: Video of something similar

Simply put, you are a fool. You are just another head of cattle walking in-step with a mindless herd of people that think that government and its beauracracies know better than the individuals that fund them.

School officials are not law enforcement, nor are they spiritual leaders. Off school grounds (not counting official school outings or functions) a school district has zero authorization to regulate behavior, and VERY much less any right to regulate morality.

Anonymoussays:

A former employer would do this all the time. There would be times I would wake up in the middle of the night only to find my work laptop, still in the laptop bag, chugging away working hard on something. Several times, I remember finding the battery worn down to 25%. I caught it in the act one night, and quickly ran a netstat and yep, it had actually connected to one of the major datacenters and was doing something weird.

Of course, this was at an employer, but it opened my eyes to the fact that this was possible, and the technology has been around for quite some time. But nothing really says “love thy employer” quite like remote management software turning your computer on in the dead night.

New Mexico Marksays:

Re:

I’ve known system administrators who scheduled automated tasks such as A/V updates or patching to occur at weird hours (and yes, required a connection to the company to get those updates). However, this was done to minimize impact on employees rather than some nefarious purpose. Seems a bit risky from a heat standpoint to do that for laptops when they might be in a bag at the time.

But if an employer used a laptop to collect images, sound, or non-company data from a home or home network without employee knowledge or consent, that’s an entirely different matter. Even with consent it’s pretty creepy behavior.

Natesays:

So...

Was this ostensibly happening when the kids were logged onto the school’s VPN from home? Was it sending camera shots to the school servers from over the internet? Or was it more like the video that Mike showed from Frontline, where usage in general was monitored, and when the kid brought it back to school later and had it on their network, something was discovered then?

It’s not really the same thing, but if I’m using a corporate laptop, I’m fully aware that its contents can and will be monitored when I connect to their network, and I’m subject to discipline for what they might find. That’s a whole lot different from having a utility actively take webcam shots, though.

As it’s been said, you’d have to be REALLY stupid to pull this, and we certainly don’t have all the facts here, so I doubt we’re getting the full scoop.

Paul P.says:

Re: So...

The fact that a school wants to punish a student for inappropriate behavior at home is bad enough, spying aside. This is way outside of their power. Parents deal with things at home, schools deal with things at school, though they’ve even been going about that in questionable enough ways as it is. Full story or not, that bit should never have happened.

Chillsays:

I want to know what specific “inappropriate behavior” took place for the school admins to get up in arms. I assume it was n’t anything explicitly sexual (if the guy took a picture, he would have enough sense to know that’s a no-no and will get you vanned), but hell, the kid could have been masturbating or something.

This whole fiasco definitely reminds me of Little Brother.

zealeussays:

Remote Desktop

I work in a 1:1 mac laptop school and it’s clearly written in the AUP that there is no expectation of privacy on the laptops. They are the school’s laptops- not the students. I use ARD to monitor what students are doing, and I don’t feel bad about it at all.

That said, the idea of leaving photo booth on 24/7, particularly when they’re at home, is very squeezy to me and I would not do that.

TAM Fansays:

Re: Re: Remote Desktop

Pretty big difference between monitoring web browsing, etc done using the school’s computer and using the webcam to view what is going on at a student’s home.

Yes, and a good example of how computers can actually be put to good use and not just used for stealing copyrighted works. There might be something going on in a student’s home that school officials need to know about, as in this case.

weneedhelpsays:

Yeah, he likes to “mess” with them and take a picture. Then he messes himself to that picture later. Ewwwwwww!!!!!!

ARD, or Apple Remote Desktop is sneaky. We use it here where I work. I feel dirty when in observation mode, and I always call our users if I need to remote to the MAC’s that way. At least Altiris can be set up to ask for permission first.

These kids and parents need to be made aware of what admins are doing. I dont need some rouge admin taking pictures of my daughter to upload on child porn sites.

Rekrulsays:

They say that kids growing up today are really “computer savvy”, but this story illustrates just how clueless they still are about computers. Oh sure, they know how to create a Facebook page and run BitTorrent, but when it comes to the computer itself, they’re completely clueless.

If a school gave me a laptop to take home, the first thing I would do is go through it with a fine-toothed comb to see exactly what’s running on it. Any remote-control software would be killed off in the task manager each time I turned the system on. This would leave the system untouched, but leave the school unable to connect to it remotely. When not in use, I’d yank the WiFi adapter to prevent it from connecting to anything without my consent. A piece of tape over the camera would complete the job and muting the Windows mic input would complete the job.

petesays:

Re:

If a school gave me a laptop to take home, the first thing I would do is go through it with a fine-toothed comb to see exactly what’s running on it. Any remote-control software would be killed off in the task manager each time I turned the system on. This would leave the system untouched, but leave the school unable to connect to it remotely. When not in use, I’d yank the WiFi adapter to prevent it from connecting to anything without my consent. A piece of tape over the camera would complete the job and muting the Windows mic input would complete the job.

fail!

You forgot about kernel driver or kernel service (not the
Administrative Tools “Services” of Windows), or Intel vPro or AMD Simfire or other BIOS/hardware management and other virtualization sandboxing technology, or Microsoft NAP or antivirus plugins.

Anonymoussays:

To disable Apple Remote Desktop client software:

To Remove Apple Remote Desktop, execute these commands in Terminal:

$ sudo rm -rf /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/RemoteDesktop.menu
$ sudo rm -rf /System/Library/CoreServices/RemoteManagement/
$ sudo rm -rf /System/Library/PreferencePanes/ARDPref.prefPane
$ sudo rm -rf /System/Library/StartupItems/RemoteDesktopAgent/
$ sudo rm /Library/Preferences/com.apple.ARDAgent.plist
$ sudo rm /Library/Preferences/com.apple.RemoteManagement.plist

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: To disable Apple Remote Desktop client software:

Too bad students don’t have a boot disk that has the password reset utility.

Too bad the administrator will be discover that the very time first he tries to remotely log on and finds that his password no longer works. Can you say “expelled and criminally prosecuted”? You know, as in that would be a really stupid thing to do?

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: To disable Apple Remote Desktop client software:

No, not really. What would be expulsion would be distroying property, not reconfiguring it.

If a student say, made a cheap laser burner and then burned the CCD or the camera, then it would be reasonable to pay for repairs, but we are all administrators here and we all know using a time machine backup, it takes about an hour to completely restore a machine.

What’s more valuable? Giving a school tech an hour of work or having the administrations substantiate their job and push paperwork around?

Also, I do believe students have rights which would include privacy.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: To disable Apple Remote Desktop client software:

No, not really. What would be expulsion would be distroying [sic] property, not reconfiguring it.

If you believe that then you really have no idea what the computer crime laws say. The computer belongs to the school and cracking the administrator account without authorization would be a serious criminal offense.

net625says:

Re: To disable Apple Remote Desktop client software:

When I went to a school that had a 1:1 mac program the thoughtfully disabled terminal, I was able to use a trick that lets you create an admin account but I didn’t want to mess with the account that they gave me or to remove the admin account that they had on the machine. But I don’t go to that school anymore, because while being able to play flash games instead of taking notes is fun, getting straight C’s no matter what I do because the teachers have no idea what they are doing isn’t. I personally don’t think that the apple one to one laptop program is ready for prime time yet and this is just one more example of that. I could see them giving students netbooks to take home but any more and it seems like a waste of money and nice computers that will only play flash games and music.

Anonymoussays:

Guide to Apple Remote Desktop client software

http://images.apple.com/remotedesktop/pdf/AdministratorsGuide20061116.pdf

Pretty sneaky stuff. Page 29 and 33 are particularily interesting, but it doesn’t seem much different than what you can do with Microsoft Systems Management Server, and/or Back Orifice (Yep, it’s open sourced and even works with Vista!)

http://www.bo2k.com/docs/bo2k_legitimacy.html

KilgoreTrout XLsays:

Hey, the school just posted a bland, boring response

http://www.lmsd.org/sections/news/default.php?m=0&t=today&p=lmsd_anno&id=1137

Highlights:

“The laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. This feature has been deactivated effective today.”

“The tracking-security feature was limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator’s screen. This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever.”

Nice! Ima head to Philly to steal a sh*tload of laptops, unless This “Doctor” McGinley is full of shit, which he almost certainly is (full of).

Anonymoussays:

Re: Hey, the school just posted a bland, boring response

This feature has been deactivated effective today.

To be reactivated in the near future, no doubt.

This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop.

Oh, so the kid was using a stolen laptop, eh? I wonder if they’re going to charge him. [/sarcasm]

Anonymoussays:

This seems weird:

ARD Page 49:

Before you can audit, control, or maintain any client, you need to add it to an Apple Remote Desktop computer list. To use Bonjour to discover computers on your local subnet, your local network?s routers and firewalls must allow multicast DNS (mDNS) packets on port 5353. To find computers that aren?t on the local subnet, your local network?s routers and firewalls must be properly configured to pass network pings, and TCP/UDP packets on ports 3283 and 5900.

If you have a router attached to your cable modem, you can just block those ports right?

When a computer is used at a school, that school has every right to know what the computer is being used for. But when the school spies on students at home on their own bandwidth then there really is no defense for doing it.
And, as other commenters have asked, what about if the webcam happens to turn on while the kid is undressed? Doesn’t that make the school administrator viewing the cam feed a pornographer? I can’t even begin to fathom the rationality needed to allow such a stupid and invasive program to be put into use. It is really just shockingly stupid.

I guess they are now all sex offenders

Since there is a ripe possibility that someoene could have switched on a kid’s webcam when they were changing and therefore naked, maybe the school’s administration should get child pornography charges slapped on them even though they didn’t know the kid was going to be naked before they activated their webcam? Perhaps the FBI should do a sweep of all of their hard drives.

Anonymoussays:

Could this be the tip of the iceberg?

If administrators are doing this to students, chances are they’re also doing this to faculty and staff too.

Many staff members are also issued a computer to assist with lesson plans and the like. Has anyone considered that there may be teachers that may bring work home, and have fallen victim to these types of things as well, yet due to union or other politics are unable to have a voice?

I wonder if teachers unions would be willing to protect their members interests and privacy too.

Anonymoussays:

I know how these school IT people work, in my school recently some kids installed proxy software to there network accounts, and the IT guy did a sweep and found them. All the kids were called out off class to a meeting with the principle and tech guy, in which the IT guy claimed it cost the school $30,000, and told them they would be arrested if they did it again.

When one of the kids parents called the school about how their son was treated like a criminal for using youtube at school, the school denied any sort of threat, and told them they were just informing the students that they were breaking school rules and nothing more.

"How Google Saved A School"

Maybe Google really is evil.

My sister coined the phrase “Stepford Children” to describe kids like Eddie Haskell who behave perfectly when they are being watched by authorities, and when they are not break every rule in the book.

If you don’t trust children you create untrustworthy children. Who grow up into school administrators who think that external discipline is good.

This is wrong.

I understand the urge to pull your kids out of school so you can protect them but all that does is leave the rest of your kid’s generation at risk. Fight these bad things if you can. Because if you don’t, your kids will end up living in a world where this kind of shit is acceptable.

michael mitchellsays:

Confused

Im a bit confused. The article says that the administrator could turn on the webcam at any time secretly, but the video only shows him able to monitor whats happening on screen. While it also appears that he can assume remote control of the mouse, which would allow him to fire up photo booth, its not exactly a secret to the student that something fishy is going on.

About the administrator taking a picture of a student, that is misleading as well. He is not taking a picture for himself, he is issuing the command remotely for the students laptop to take the picture which freaks out the kid, who can subsequently delete the taken snapshot, and quit photo booth.

WOW!

Even if it were spying on adults, rather than children, it would still be obscene.

An overdue reality check for some stuck-up bastard, or bitch, who obviously has a rod so far up their starchy arse that it’s interfering with their tiny brain.

What sick hypochrites some people are!

I hope we get to see the weirdo whose idea this was. I bet he, or she, has has got cigarette burns and razor slashes all over their scrawny body. YUMMY! I need you now!!! Nekked!

jilocasinsays:

It was wrong, and it looks like it's going to be a very short court case.

This was/is wrong on so many levels, I can’t even begin. The good news is it looks like it should be a fairly short case. There are just a few simple questions that need to be answered and then it’s all over ‘cept the punishment.

(Questions and answers, that if answered this way would be real bad for the school district.)

Q. Did the school issue the laptop in question to the minor defendant (MD)?

A. yes.

Q. Did the school put software on said laptop that allows the school to surreptitiously view the user remotely?

A. yes.

Q. Was MD or parents of MD every notified of the presence or capabilities of aforementioned software?

A. no.

Q. Was MD presented with a print out of an image captured with the aforementioned software by the aforementioned laptop?

A. yes.

Q. Was the aforementioned laptop located on school property when the image in question was captured?

A. no.

Q. Was the permission of either the MD obtained before said image was obtained?

A. no.

Judge: I find the defendant guilty of … .

The sad thing is that but for an over zealous administrator the parents and children may have never known about this software. Since the administrator presented the student with proof that he had used the software on the laptop in order to justify punishing him for whatever inappropriate thing he believed the student to have done, the school district is going to have a very hard time claiming it was only there/used to track stolen laptops…..

Grimwyndsays:

Re: Re: It was wrong, and it looks like it's going to be a very short court case.

And just like everything else in this country (From NDAs to a permission slip for a field trip), a minor child has no legal authorization to enter a binding contract.

Unless the parents signed authorization, any document signed by the student would become worthless as defense.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: It was wrong, and it looks like it's going to be a very short court case.

And just like everything else in this country (From NDAs to a permission slip for a field trip), a minor child has no legal authorization to enter a binding contract.

Unless the parents signed authorization, any document signed by the student would become worthless as defense.

But they can sign an acknowledgment that they were given notice. The school doesn’t need “authorization” on it’s own computers.

Grimwyndsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: It was wrong, and it looks like it's going to be a very short court case.

You are wrong. The video/audio monitoring within the walls of a private home requires court order, or consent of the HOMEOWNER, not the child.

See, the problem is that the webcam is not monitoring the computer activity alone, but the environment it resides in. No amount of ‘notice’ to a child can make that right. You are not only invading the child’s privacy, but the privacy of anyone in the household.

Your point of ‘the school doesnt need permission’ because they own the laptop is totally ignorant. Just because someone (the school) OWNS a camera does not under any circumstance give them rights to take pictures from within a private home merely by informing a minor child that it might be monitored.

Have you even considered other children or parents in this? The laptop is not only spying on the one informed, but the others that have not been officially informed. And again, the minor child nor the school has the authority to invade the privacy of other potential residents of the household.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It was wrong, and it looks like it's going to be a very short court case.

You are wrong. The video/audio monitoring within the walls of a private home requires court order, or consent of the HOMEOWNER, not the child.

If the school installed the camera in the home, then you might have a point. But it didn’t. The child did, and probably with the parent’s permission.

Just because someone (the school) OWNS a camera does not under any circumstance give them rights to take pictures from within a private home merely by informing a minor child that it might be monitored.

Remember, the school didn’t put the camera there.

And again, the minor child nor the school has the authority to invade the privacy of other potential residents of the household.

Then perhaps the “other potential residents of the household” have a case against the person who put the camera there.

btr1701says:

Re: It was wrong, and it looks like it's going to be a very short court case.

Judge: I find the defendant guilty of …

Last I checked, it’s juries that find defendants guilty. It’s technically possible that the defendant could agree to a bench trial in a criminal case but it’s such a suicide move that no one would ever do it.

Rick H.says:

And we wonder why kids today are failing in schools

All you people who are running around in circles with your arms waving in air screaming “the sky is falling” should be looking at society today and asking yourselves why our youth are failing in schools and becoming more of a burden on society then becoming productive citizens. In this video the laptops are not taken home by the students. Therefore this isn’t an invasion of privacy. It is the same as a teacher sitting at his/her desk watching the student. If they are given a task to do they need to be completing it and not screwing around. I have two children in school and I wish this would be implemented in our schools here. I do agree that the parents should be informed of these practices before they are implemented.

Anonymoussays:

Re: And we wonder why kids today are failing in schools

I have two children in school and I wish this would be implemented in our schools here.

While I don’t have any control over the schools, if you’ll post your address I’ll see about getting some web cams installed in your home if that will make you happy. How about one in each room?

jilocasinsays:

RE: Rick H. -> Video doesn't seem to match complaint

If the video doesn’t show the laptops being taken home then it isn’t really indicative of the complaint in question.

In the complaint the student take_the_laptop_home.

In the complaint the school secretly webcam’s students in_their_home.

In the complaint an administrator _shows_the_student a print out of the secret_webcam_capture and uses it as a reason to discipline the student.

If the program was only used in_school then it may have been O.K. But that’s not what this complaint is about…

Why am I still shocked?says:

Idiots...

For you who are stating “fear-mongering media” for this case – you are absolutely part of the very scum that sex offenders are. Sexual abuse includes the viewing of ones nakedness without their permission. If this happened, which, really, undoubtedly it did, then they are sex offenders. The children didn’t give them permission. Nonetheless, how do you think this will affect the children psychologically you freaking idiots? EVEN IF they weren’t ever naked in front of the camera!!!! Look at the intent. Is it truely the intent of the school officials to “protect their property” when they turn on the camera’s before the property is even reported stolen? And if it was reported stolen, do you really need more than one quick photo op of the person? Intent here is obvious. The power they wanted and got,even if for a limited time, is the same power sex offenders have/need over their victims.

Jeeshsays:

Re: But they did it ...

“Too bad no teacher or administrator in any state, could be hired as such with an accusation like that. Protect the kids???? the brat was selling drugs. Its funny the partents will spend that much money so the kid won’t get busted for drugs.”

If this were my kid. I would do everything possible and probable to get people fired and prosecuted. That does not mean that I also would not bust my kid. As someone else said, that power does NOT belong to school officials IF selling/doing drugs was in my home. Fools.

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