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PA School Defends Web-Cam Spying As Security Measure, Denies Misuse

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the great-and-powerful-oz's-big-lie-technique dept.

Privacy 364

tekgoblin writes "The Lower Merion School District of Pennsylvania was recently accused of privacy invasion. Now the school has released an official response to the allegations. According to the school, the security feature was installed in the laptops as an anti-theft device and was not intended to invade privacy. The software that was installed would take a photo of the person using the laptop after it was stolen to give to the authorities. Now this may be what it was intended for, but it seems that someone didn't get the memo." The district's claim that it "has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever" doesn't square with the allegations which set off this whole storm. And if there was nothing wrong with it, why does the school say it won't start using the snooping feature again without "express written notification to all students and families"?

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364 comments

Security (4, Funny)

srussia (884021) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221540)

Sure. That's what the body scanners at the airports for as well.

I swear we didn't make some delicious CP (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221598)

If cartoons are CP, then fuzzy grey images out real kids are definitely CP.

Double standards suck. We need consistency.

Re:I swear we didn't make some delicious CP (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31222000)

We need consistency.

Hahaha, that'll never happen.

When a drawn cartoon child has more rights than some humans, you know something is wrong.

Sadly, double-standards are what makes the world tick.
Some are beneficial to society, but, sadly, some of them are just downright retarded in every sense of the word.

Re:I swear we didn't make some delicious CP (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222018)

not true.

non-sexual nude images are generally not considered CP (in the US anyway). This is at least according to what various sites were saying when the teen sexting thing was news a while back.

Graphic cartoons, could count and it would not be a contradiction. To be clear, I don't think people imagining things and then writing/drawing them is CP, but it does not make it inherently true that airport scanners are.

Re:I swear we didn't make some delicious CP (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222126)

Body scanner images and webcam images are still more detailed than a cartoon, no matter how "graphic" the cartoon might be.

This is at least according to what various sites were saying when the teen sexting thing was news a while back.

Sexting isn't sexual?

To be clear, I don't think people imagining things and then writing/drawing them is CP

In many countries, drawn images can count as child porn (including the UK now - indeed, the new law criminalising "child" cartoons has come around the same time that the airport scanners are being introduced).

Re:Security (4, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221878)

Yup. The irony here of course is that by creating this kerfuffle, they've completely eliminated any actual security the webcam system might have given them. Now everybody knows that these laptops have hidden cameras, so they'll just tape over them. So there's little chance that the cameras will ever actually be used to identify any thief now.

First Post... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221544)

... i did not intend to troll.

In-home Reprimand (5, Interesting)

Luthair (847766) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221552)

So then why was a student reprimanded for their in home behaviour with a picture from the webcam used as evidence?

Re:In-home Reprimand (3, Interesting)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221614)

And furthermore, WTF is their problem with masturbation?

Re:In-home Reprimand (2, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221662)

Because for some strange reason Americans are squeamish about everything sexual, and as a result have the highest rates of STDs in the G-7.....

Re:In-home Reprimand (3, Insightful)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221674)

Because for some strange reason Americans are squeamish about everything sexual, and as a result have the highest rates of STDs in the G-7.....

I can also see the case for that being proof of the opposite...

Re:In-home Reprimand (2, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222092)

whoosh. The idea is: sex will happen anyway. The choice is between being educated (and hopefully at least a bit mature) about it, or the wild west US approach.

Re:In-home Reprimand (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221732)

And furthermore, WTF is their problem with masturbation?

Has it finally been leaked that that's what the "inappropriate behavior" was?

Re:In-home Reprimand (2, Insightful)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221946)

OK, I feel bad now for not saying in that post that I doubt that's what the kid was doing. The press certainly didn't do him any favors by carefully revealing everything in this story except for the actual "private act" he got busted for. Even so, it's pretty obvious that you wouldn't want to have a laptop from this school in the same room with you unless your pants were on.

Re:In-home Reprimand (4, Informative)

insufflate10mg (1711356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222042)

The student said on MSNBC he was caught with Mike n' Ikes (or some kind of candy) on camera, and they believed he had illegal pharmaceutical drugs.

Re:In-home Reprimand (5, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221736)

And furthermore, WTF is their problem with masturbation?

What are you talking about?

The kid wasn't choking kojak - he was eating candy.
Dumbass on the other side of the camera thought a piece of Mike & Ike candy was an illegal drug.
Who knows what kind 'zero-tolerance' befuddled mindset lets them decide that something that looks like a pill was "illegal" via just a webcam shot...

Re:In-home Reprimand (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221772)

The kid wasn't choking kojak - he was eating candy.

Ahh, so that's what they call it these days...

Re:In-home Reprimand (4, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221830)

I bet that some kids were observed nude or even jacking off, but the observers never reported it because they'd be admitting to viewing child porn.

Semi-related story: when I was in high school, I thought it would be funny to use my student I.D. to crush my Sweet tarts into a fine powder and chop them up like lines of cocaine. My music teacher sent me to the counselor's office even though he knew what the powder was. The counselor asked me how I knew how to do that, and I told her I saw it in the move South Central (which was true).

I had always hoped that naive, alarmist authorities were only a high school thing. Then bam, 9/11, and here we are.

Re:In-home Reprimand (3, Funny)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221870)

The kid wasn't choking kojak - he was eating candy.

Are you sure he wasn't eating Candi? If so, and depending on their ages, they might have been violating some sort of blue-nose law about teenage sex.

Re:In-home Reprimand (5, Informative)

TheWanderingHermit (513872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221748)

It wasn't masturbation. I can't remember if it was in an article linked to by /. or from Google news, but the student involved was eating candy that they mistook for drugs. I can't remember the name of the candy, but it looked close enough to capsule or caplet form that the school people just assumed (intentional use of that word) that it was illegal drugs.

I hope the student ends up able to retire on the punitive damages he gets. While it's not the best for him, it'd make the school district and others think about it more. They won't ever see this based on ethics, but they might make changes based on fear of damage awards.

Re:In-home Reprimand (1)

Luthair (847766) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221936)

I don't know that I would hope that any damages are awarded in the case, it simply costs their friends and neighbours who are tax payers for the board, rather than the individuals responsible for the abuse (of power). That said, this school board seems extremely well off, I mean Macbooks for all their students, how many boards can afford that?

Re:In-home Reprimand (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222120)

I don't know that I would hope that any damages are awarded in the case, it simply costs their friends and neighbours who are tax payers for the board, rather than the individuals responsible for the abuse (of power).

Yep, I would much rather see everyone involved - especially the decision makers - convicted of some sort of pedophile related sex crime. That will effectively take them out of circulation and will prevent them from ever again being a position of authority where they can exercise their stupidity on others. If zero tolerance on drugs is good enough for the kids then society's zero tolerance on anything that can be remotely confused for pedophilia is good enough for the administrators.

Re:In-home Reprimand (4, Informative)

kabloom (755503) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221964)

I think the link you're looking for is here [myfoxphilly.com] .

Re:In-home Reprimand (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221976)

One almost wishes it had been masturbation. The Child Pornography charges would have given this entire case some serious teeth.

Re:In-home Reprimand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221828)

are we even certain it was masturbation? are we sure they didn't catch him smoking a bong or something? i'm trying to figure out why, since this story broke, /. has generally assumed he was caught masturbating.

Re:In-home Reprimand (4, Interesting)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221768)

and why were they watching in the first place?

Re:In-home Reprimand (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222020)

and why were they watching in the first place?

Trolling for cheerleaders changing clothes, obviously.

Re:In-home Reprimand (4, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221854)

I really think the whole case hinges on this point.

They claim they never once turned on the software unless a laptop was reported stolen. Yet if they did in fact punish a student for in-home behavior on a non-stolen laptop, then they're clearly caught in a lie.

And even if the intent was merely an anti-theft solution, I think there is still a civil suit worth pursuing (if not criminal charges) if the software was not disclosed.

Re:In-home Reprimand (0, Troll)

PRMan (959735) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221972)

So then why was a student reprimanded for their in home behaviour with a picture from the webcam used as evidence?

The school claims that this story was made up by the student after being caught with the stolen laptop.

Re:In-home Reprimand (1, Informative)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222106)

So then why was a student reprimanded for their in home behaviour with a picture from the webcam used as evidence?

According to the replies of some of his fellow students, he had taken the pictures with the webcam himself and left them on the hard drive when he returned the laptop to the school, and someone else accidently stumbled on them.

As for what he was actually doing, there are conflicting reports. Some say he was smoking weed; others say he was eating Mike and Ike candies which the school official mistook for drugs. They also report he was not disciplined by the school, but the school official did contact the parents out of concern for the student's safety.

Unfortunately, the school official did not make clear to the parents how the photograph was obtained, and the parents jumped to unwarranted conclusions. I'm sure this will all come out as the lawsuit progresses.

the school already is lying (5, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221556)

The school denies Misuse, however they have photographic evidence of a child committing inappropriate behavior in the child's bedroom.

Therefore the School has already committed a misuse of said camera's. The real question is why hasn't the school fired the people involved. there was no evidence of any laptops being stolen therefore the system shouldn't have been turned on to begin with. The only reason the camera's were turned on would be for misuse.

So the school district is lying to cover themselves. They could get out of this much easier if they simply fired a couple of people and blamed those directly responsible, and their bosses for the policy.

Re:the school already is lying (2, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221600)

The district denies having activated the camera, so before anyone gets fired for just an accusation they should probably figure out if someone WAS lying. If the student took a picture of themselves say, smoking marijuana, brought the computer to school, and then while hooked up to the network the school saw it, that's a bit more of a grey area.

Re:the school already is lying (1)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221820)

Why should the school care when one of their students smokes marihuana at home?

Re:the school already is lying (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222170)

The school claims they found the snapshot on the laptop. The laptop is school property and it seems perfectly reasonable that a search of the laptop revealed the photo. We don't have all of the facts.

Re:the school already is lying (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221602)

It's the Larry Craig style of protecting the children. Someone has to be the pedophile, so the school is calling dibs.

Re:the school already is lying (1, Insightful)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221658)

Why does it not occur to you that perhaps the student took the photo and emailed it to their buddies?

Re:the school already is lying (4, Insightful)

Luthair (847766) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221750)

Because if the student took it, then why would it ever have come out that the school was able to remotely activate the webcam & microphone?

Re:the school already is lying (3, Interesting)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222138)

Maybe the student didn't want to admit that he took the snapshot?

Mom: Then how did the picture get taken?
Kid: I don't know, maybe they did it remotely!
Mom (to school): Is it possible for you to take snapshots remotely?
School: Err, well actually, we do have this security software...
Mom: I'm calling my lawyer.

The remote webcam activation is a pretty standard feature of anti-theft software.

Re:the school already is lying (4, Interesting)

tftp (111690) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221778)

Why does it not occur to you that perhaps the student took the photo and emailed it to their buddies?

How would the student know that webcams can be remotely activated? Besides, I believe most of the accusation, picture and all, comes from the school administrator.

My best guess is that the system was installed indeed to find lost laptops. However there were no locks, safeguards or anything, so busybody teachers took it upon themselves to monitor students whenever they feel to it. The district claims that only two IT people were authorized to monitor, however how hard is it for an IT guy to tell the URL and the password to a teacher? Teachers were seen as gods until now, or a step above that.

Re:the school already is lying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31222034)

How do hackers learn about exploits on a closed-source system?

Experimentation.

Re:the school already is lying (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222146)

How do hackers learn about exploits on a closed-source system? Experimentation.

I'm afraid you just cut yourself with Occam's razor.

Besides, if the student had access to webcams, why would he reveal that? What gain is there for him? The loss I see clearly - a felony conviction if the police is smart enough to ask a very simple question, like "Boy, how did you know about that?"

On top of that, he claims to be innocent, and as long as his parents buy his candy story he has nothing to fear. The school won't touch him. He'd have no reason to raise this storm.

Re:the school already is lying (3, Informative)

cduffy (652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221926)

Re:the school already is lying (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222098)

The media is just reporting what the student said. Someone is lying here, right? Why are you assuming that it's the school and not the student?

Re:the school already is lying (2, Insightful)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222172)

No, the media reports that the plaintiff contradicts it. It's right there in the title of the article you linked: "Student says official mistook candy for drugs on webcam pic"

Re:the school already is lying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221836)

The school denies Misuse, however they have photographic evidence of a child committing inappropriate behavior in the child's bedroom.

Can this be proved?

Re:the school already is lying (2, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222152)

Let's see if the school actually produces the photographic evidence in court (even if WE are not allowed to see it for privacy reasons). If they do, the defense will have the right to know where that evidence came from and how the school acquired it.

Re:the school already is lying (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221916)

is there any info about what kind of "inappropriate behavior" we are talking about? Could it be that said kid was trying to bypass some filter or other on the computer in question, this triggered an alert and the kid got photoed?

or was it some activity where the computer happened to be running in the background, with the screen (and therefor the camera) facing the activity?

Re:the school already is lying (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31222054)

The school denies Misuse, however they have photographic evidence of a child committing inappropriate behavior in the child's bedroom.

Therefore the School has already committed a misuse of said camera's. The real question is why hasn't the school fired the people involved. there was no evidence of any laptops being stolen therefore the system shouldn't have been turned on to begin with. The only reason the camera's were turned on would be for misuse.

That's not true. The student reported his laptop missing at the beginning of the day, and received a loaner laptop from the school for that day. He failed to turn it back in to the school before leaving for the day, which was the policy. The school activated the system because the student had informed them of a missing laptop. There is no misuse in this instance, except for the student not following the policy that he was supposed to follow.

Even if you deny that this is what happened, it still shows your logic is flawed. If the school denies misuse, and they have a picture from the laptop's camera, then either they used the system correctly (and you have your facts wrong), or they are lying.

"something wrong with it"? (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221564)

And if there was nothing wrong with it, why does the school say it won't start using the snooping feature again without "express written notification to all students and families"?

maybe while the feature was introduced for all the right reasons (recovering lost/stolen laptops), they're admitting that students/parents should've been notified? i.e. they're admitting they made a mistake, but denying that they are pedophiles who used this "feature" to spy on acne-faced teenage boys masturbating to vogue magazine.

Re:"something wrong with it"? (3, Insightful)

QCompson (675963) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221790)

maybe while the feature was introduced for all the right reasons (recovering lost/stolen laptops), they're admitting that students/parents should've been notified? i.e. they're admitting they made a mistake, but denying that they are pedophiles who used this "feature" to spy on acne-faced teenage boys masturbating to vogue magazine.

Now that's just ridiculous! I highly doubt teenage boys are masturbating to vogue magazine. Especially with the school-issued laptop computer (i.e. gateway to the universe of porn) right in front of them.

Riiight. (3, Insightful)

nhytefall (1415959) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221582)

Webcams hardly equal a lojack. Seems to me, this whole incident is nothing more than the reflection of our society's values of surveilance absent privacy, all in the name of security of course. As is said on The Simpsons, "Won't someone think of the children?!?"

Chris Hansen (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221594)

Why don't you take a seat over there?

Nothing wrong with it? (1, Redundant)

dbolger (161340) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221596)

And if there was nothing wrong with it, why does the school say it won't start using the snooping feature again without "express written notification to all students and families"?

Umm, because there was a national scandal regarding it and the school is desperately trying to cover its ass on all sides?

Sounds Half-Assed (2, Insightful)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221618)

If you wanted an anti-theft system, why not buy LoJack? It has to be at least as reliable as turning on the camera. Look: in order to catch the thief with a camera, you'd either have to recognize them or the location in which they're sitting. What are the odds of that working out for you? (Yes, I know it has happened before. But out of how many attempts?)

I'll bet that the district could even have gotten a bulk, educational discount on such software. They might even have spent less than it would cost to pay a person to troll through the camera images over a few years, even.

Expectation of Privacy (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221622)

I bring my company-supplied craptop home and get busted surfin' porn. Misuse of property.

If you're going to use the taxpayers' equipment, expect some restrictions.

Re:Expectation of Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221660)

If you're going to use the taxeaters' equipment, expect some restrictions.

Fixed.

Re:Expectation of Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221906)

How is this the same as taking pictures of people in their homes during private moments? Answer: It's not, you're a fucking retard.

Enough sensationalism already. (4, Insightful)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221632)

The district's claim that it "has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever" doesn't square with the allegations which set off this whole storm.

You're right. It's he-said, she-said. But since the school district does have controls in place to protect against abuses (only two people have access to the function, and this access is logged), and because I'd be very, very surprised if the district was foolish enough to act in the way that the suit alleges, I'm siding firmly on the side of "someone needs to provide some proof before I condemn anyone" - something the sensationalist media seems to be trying very hard doesn't happen.

Now this may be what it was intended for, but it seems that someone didn't get the memo - or so the plaintiffs allege. ...why does the school say it won't start using the snooping feature again without "express written notification to all students and families"? I don't think it indicates anything at all that the district will more clearly communicate the existence and usage patterns of the software before they activate it again. The district has successfully used the software to recover 18 of 42 lost laptops, so if anything it seems like they might need even stronger software than this (though this is still $18,000 worth of taxpayer money the software has saved). Parents and students were surprised to know of its existence, and the district feels in retrospect that whatever communication was made in this regard was insufficient. That sounds like a reasonable action to me.

I still find it far more plausible that the student took a photo himself and sent it to his buddies, than that one of two people with access to the system abused it, then exposed their abuse to a principal (who is not one of the two with access), who decided instead of doing something about the abuse, to then further abuse it themselves, and expose the abuse to the student and the student's parents. Sorry, one kid being kinda stupid is far more likely than two adults being very stupid.

Re:Enough sensationalism already. (5, Informative)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221776)

You must be new here. School's are FAMOUS for long strings of abysmally unintelligent decisions. Hell, the most recent SCotUS case involved a stripsearch conducted by multiple adults because one student with a bad disciplinary record got caught with advil in a folder that had been loaned to her by another student at least several days before.

Re:Enough sensationalism already. (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222032)

Or so the salivating media told you.

Re:Enough sensationalism already. (5, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221842)

The district has successfully used the software to recover 18 of 42 lost laptops, so if anything it seems like they might need even stronger software than this (though this is still $18,000 worth of taxpayer money the software has saved)

Each $1,000 laptop is insured by parents, with $55/yr premium and $100 deductible. 2,800 laptops netted $154K, enough to fully replace 154 laptops every year. But they lost only 42, and over more than a year. So the school should just remove all the security software and let the insurance deal with it.

I still find it far more plausible that the student took a photo himself and sent it to his buddies

Then you need to explain how the remote webcam activation thing was claimed, and was true (at least to the capability of doing it.) Clairvoyance is not the answer :-)

Re:Enough sensationalism already. (1)

fatalwall (873645) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221912)

Yea, one would think so... however your forgetting the level of stupid we have running our schools.

In high school I was almost thrown out of a club because one of the volunteers asked me to do something and I insisted to know the reasoning behind it before I would do it. The logic was not there and he would not explain. The advisory of the club took his side and tried to make me apologize for asking and expecting an answer in an educational environment. This was even brought all the way up the levels where my parents had to step in.

If a school would try and punish me for honestly trying to learn then its very possible. My situation contained 3-4 very stupid adults along with 10-15 who were keeping there heads down.

Both ways are honestly very possible.

Now that being said. One of the 2 people with access may have accidentally activated the wrong computers software. The picture was taken and contained something that surprised and disturbed the employee enough where he felt it needed to be reported.

Re:Enough sensationalism already. (2, Insightful)

Bman21212 (1067680) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221924)

This is not simply sensationalism. There are broad reaching consequences of having an undisclosed program that can take pictures remotely. The main problem is undisclosed.

And why are you so trusting of authority? Yes people don't normally do intentional things to harm themselves, and this gets better as they age and get more mature. But many people are not fluent in technology. They don't know the problems that arise.
I am not surprised that technology got abused by those in power. Come on, it's slashdot, this isn't the first time we've heard of something happening that way.

If the student took the picture an emailed it to his friends we would not have this case. The administration would say "we received this information from an email from another student/teacher/parent." The case would simply not be there because the administration could easily defend itself.

The school had the proper safeguards to prevent too much abuse, but it looks like the safeguards were not followed, thus making them useless. The administration could easily open up the logs and show that every situation was a proper use, except for one. That would be bad, but much more understandable. People make mistakes. But when the mistakes become patterns true problems arise.

This isn't sensationalism, this is a real problem. It's blown out of proportion because the only ones that are affected are those in the school district, but at the same time it teaches some others privacy controls, and that is a much needed lesson.

Re:Enough sensationalism already. (1)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222136)

It wasn't undisclosed. They just didn't make parents sign a paper acknowledging it.

If the student took the picture an emailed it to his friends we would not have this case. The administration would say "we received this information from an email from another student/teacher/parent." The case would simply not be there because the administration could easily defend itself.

If it was sent to another student, and that student sent it to the administrators, then the district may not be able to disclose where it got it outside of the court room - the district has an obligation to protect the privacy of other parties which may have been involved.

All I'm saying is, it's too early to draw judgment, all we have is a fairly generic statement from the district, plus a lot of unsubstantiated claims from the plaintiff.

Meant to keep the laptops on campus? (1, Redundant)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221650)

I seem to recall reading somewhere that all of the laptops were meant to remain on campus. I bet the software is designed to snap a photo if it ever comes up with a DHCP IP other than what the campus offers.

Re:Meant to keep the laptops on campus? (4, Informative)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221818)

Based on this Laptop Capabilities at Home [lmsd.org] info from the LMSD website, they do expect the kids to take the laptops home.

Re:Meant to keep the laptops on campus? (1)

RalphSleigh (899929) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222162)

Didn't know Macs had Windows Media Player these days..

Re:Meant to keep the laptops on campus? (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222002)

So if they get a staticly assigned IP address that is other than what is used on campus, that's fine then?

When Will They Just Admit It? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221684)

Telling a little bit of the truth every day is still lying. They should just get it out in the open now and let the chips fall where they may.

Re:When Will They Just Admit It? (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221894)

They need to cop a plea deal is what they need to do.

They might spin it as good intentions, but they're going to get nailed to the wall.

They Should Have Documentary Proof (4, Insightful)

anorlunda (311253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221700)

The news reports say that the cameras were activated in this case plus 42 other cases. If the school is telling the truth they should have documentary evidence of claims of theft or loss for all 43 cases.

If they can document all 43 cases, they're still in hot water. If they can't then they're caught in yet another lie.

Re:They Should Have Documentary Proof (2, Interesting)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221822)

What stops there from being, say, 86 actual cases, but they only speak out about 43...hence pick the most or least damning incidents, whichever spins things the best way?

Re:They Should Have Documentary Proof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221974)

Or the news reports could be wrong...

So Sorry School Predo's (3, Insightful)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221704)

I'm so sorry but we need to treat you and your cohorts just like we treat everyone else who is alleged, on television, of being guilty of a crime which means we will convict you, throw you in jail and make sure the other inmates know what you did...

It's only fair, so be sure to enjoy your daily beatings and o, the rapes.

Translation (5, Insightful)

legio_noctis (1411089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221706)

A few days ago, most of us were still waiting to see if this story was in fact exaggerated and/or untrue: what about the school's side of the story?

But it appears that the initial impressions were correct: the school is in fact just scrabbling around for excuses ("It was a security feature, promise!"). This suggests that there was in fact no good reason or alternate story.

Which is good, because I can go and get properly angry now.

Re:Translation (4, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222074)

And their response is essentially "We didn't do anything wrong and we promise not to do it again".

Cheerleader surveillance .... (5, Funny)

golodh (893453) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221728)

I have some suggestions for this school on how to best focus its surveillance efforts.

Following the logic of their stated reasons for using the on-board camera to take a peek at student's private lives, I respectfully submit that the individuals which are most at risk are therefore those most in need of the kind of protective surveillance this school offers. Right? Now it is common knowledge that attractive females are, more than most other groups, at risk. Both in school and outside.

It therefore follows, with an elegant inevitability, that surveillance should focus on the 5% most attractive females of the school. We are then talking about continuous surveillance of course.

I recommend enhancing security by also enabling the laptops' microphone. Besides, are those laptop cameras any good for taking infra-red pictures?

Re:Cheerleader surveillance .... (2, Funny)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221992)

I recommend enhancing security by also enabling the laptops' microphone. Besides, are those laptop cameras any good for taking infra-red pictures?

My distinguished colleague is right. We must protect our barely illegal females first and foremost. Thus I submit that each laptop must remain on at all times and that said students be required to respond to chat requests from members of this board to insure that they are not being abused or are engaging in illegal activities off camera. If they have nothing to hide then they have nothing to fear. Except us... o and our friends.... and well I guess friends of friends... O and that weird guy, Dave in IT, you know the one who watches those strange cartoons... but anyhow the alternatives are just to horrible to allow happen. We are the last line of deference people...

huh? (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221742)

"We didn't do what everyone thinks we did, and we promise to never do it again!"

Re:huh? (1)

toriver (11308) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222200)

Bart: "I didn't do it, nobody saw me and you can't prove a thing!"

One possibility (5, Interesting)

Phroggy (441) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221764)

There's one way the school could be telling the truth about this. They didn't say this explicitly, so it's not clear, but:

The lawsuit alleges that the school accused the student of inappropriate behavior. That behavior could have been reporting his laptop as "stolen", then continuing to use it. The school maintains that they only use the webcams to take a still photo when a laptop has been reported stolen, to aid in recovering it. If the laptop was reported stolen, the school took a picture, they saw that the student who reported it was the one using it, and they confronted the student with this evidence, that would explain both the lawsuit and the school's position.

Sort of odd that the school's response wouldn't explain that, if that is indeed what happened. But people tend to omit important details like that when there's a lawsuit pending, on advice of counsel...

Re:One possibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221832)

The old "lets make ourselves look as guilty as possible" defense, never fails.

Re:One possibility (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221908)

If the above poster is correct that there are at least 42 instances of taking pictures of kids in their home, then I don't think they were all reported stolen.

Re:One possibility (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31222178)

Keep in mind that the school is still probably legally bound from discussing the specifics due to their privacy obligations to the student.

What if the student LIED? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221796)

You are only hearing one side of the story here. The side the family wants to push to get a pay day from the school district.

What if the student lied and said the laptop was stolen? The school district hasn't said anything publicly about this because of a lawsuit. Could you blame them?

Lets pretend there was a world where the student or family reported the laptop as stolen. The school activates antitheft software to recover the taxpayers property. They find that the student and family still have the laptop. Instead of owning up to the theft they LIE and sue the school to get out of what they have done.

Re:What if the student LIED? (1)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221864)

I don't get this system either way.

When i went to school, i had to buy my own books, my own pens and my own paper. Paid for by my parents money (well, at least in primaryand secondary school).

Why doesn't the school just mandate that the kids have laptops that fit certain system requirements and have the parents pay for them? They could even offer a way to bulk-purchase through the school for discounts.

This way, the situations always clear - the kids and it's parents are the owner of the device, theft recovery, insurance, etc. are their business. Makes it much easier.

Re:What if the student LIED? (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221874)

Well, what should be in place is if the laptop goes off campus, the family needs to pay a security deposit in advance.

Keep it simple (2, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221816)

If they started using the cameras to randomly take pictures of students than the school is looking at a well deserved lawsuit. Without question this is a violation of any number of laws. If the web cam pictures were taken in response to a lost or stolen laptop, than this entire thing has been much ado about nothing and the lawsuit is without merit. The only question of note on this is if the web-cams were activated for tracking anything other than lost or stolen laptops. If this kid was incidentally caught because he stole the laptop and was captured when they used the webcam to track the laptop than it changes the entire story.

Certainly people have occasionally tracked down their stolen laptop, iphone or whatnot by remotely activating the cameras before. Such stories have run on Slashdot before and the consensus has always been along the lines of /hoot!/ The fact that the tracking is done by a third party shouldn't change the view that it's ok try to recover your lost or stolen property. This is a very different issue than routine monitoring software that monitors the usage of the laptops. That kind of software is used by employers and schools on a daily basis, and I've seen some people mix up the two issues when they are unrelated.

Re:Keep it simple (0)

slashkitty (21637) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222078)

Actually, I think the question here is: Can you remotely turn on the security camera of your laptop if you believe it's stolen? Even if the laptop is stolen, it doesn't necessarily give you authority to monitor someone's personal life. (maybe the laptop was resold to an innocent 3rd party?) PA actually has the strictest anti audio surveillance laws in the country. Absolutely no recording of audio with out everyone's permission... Though, I'm guessing it was made before video cameras were everywhere.

There's only one reply to them: (1)

Perp Atuitie (919967) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221840)

Why would you need to turn on the spy software unless you were told the machine was stolen? They're using it to preemptively find out if the student looks like s/he might steal it? The thing is obviously a trojan horse, and it's obviously time for a special emergency school board election.

Who is the software manufacturer? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31221884)

Does anyone know what software was being used? Is this internal software provided by Apple? Is the software manufacturer just a culpable as the school district?

Re:Who is the software manufacturer? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31222008)

It was created as a joint venture between Microsoft, Apple, Google, IBM, and the FSF.

We haven't spied on students before (2, Insightful)

sizzzzlerz (714878) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221956)

and we promise not to ever do it again.

Absolutely Terrifying (1)

bearflash (1671358) | more than 4 years ago | (#31221996)

This kind of behavior scares the bejesus out of me. I can't believe they attempted it in the first place and then had the insanity to try and defend their actions in a press release. Absolutely un-defendable actions

That's just insulting! (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222060)

They're like the little kid with chocolate smeared all over his face and shirt claiming he didn't eat the candy bar. Forgivable for a little kid, but have these supposed responsible adults seen NO intellectual growth since age 3? It's just insulting that they even attempt such a lame lie. Are these the same adults who are supposed to be respected when they tell teens to "just own up to your mistakes and take your punishment like an adult"?

They themselves presented the evidence against them in the form of a picture of a student at home taken from his obviously not stolen laptop.

How can any kid have respect for these people AND self respect at the same time now? How can they possibly be seen as appropriate role models?

Boiling all of this down to the lesson learned... (1)

syntap (242090) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222088)

All webcams should have masking tape over them, uncover when expressly needed and re-cover when done. Mics too.

"Security" is a catch-all excuse (1)

Huntr (951770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222122)

"You're not against security are you, ya Commie?"

People have tried to get away with this kind of fascist bullshit in the name of security forever, it's just ramped up in the last 10 years. It's just especially hard to swallow when it's so blatant. Did no one at this school district have any 2nd thoughts about the impropriety of this? No one?

SOP (1)

yoshi_mon (172895) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222140)

Right out of modern PR 101: When busted on something really really bad 1) Deny Deny Deny, and 2) Spin like mad.

Automatic Consent to Monitoring (0, Flamebait)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 4 years ago | (#31222148)

I would assume that if I were using a school computer that I waived any and all rights to privacy. Why don't people just assume that using any public computer is an automatic consent to monitoring?

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