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Federal Judge Orders Schools To Stop Laptop Spying

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the black-electrical-tape dept.

Privacy 359

CWmike writes "A federal judge on Monday ordered the Pennsylvania school district accused of spying on its students to stop activating the cameras in school-issued MacBook laptops. According to the original complaint, Blake Robbins was accused by a Harriton High School assistant principal of 'improper behavior in his home' and shown a photograph taken by his laptop as evidence. In an appearance on network television last Saturday, Robbins said he was accused by the assistant principal of selling drugs and taking pills — but he claimed the pictures taken by his computer's camera showed him eating candy. Also on Monday, the company selling the software used by the school district to allegedly spy on its students blasted what it called laptop theft-recovery 'vigilantism.'" jamie found two posts from stryde.hax pointing out suggestive information about one school district network administrator, and coaching students how to determine if their school-issued laptops were infected with the LANRev software used to operate the cameras remotely and in secret.

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The important question: (4, Insightful)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252264)

When are the "cheerleaders getting dressed" videos going to leak? You know someone was making them...

Re:The important question: (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31252300)

Silly, cheerleaders don't know how to use laptops.

Re:The important question: (4, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252332)

Silly, cheerleaders don't know how to use laptops.

But they know how to give lap dances!

Re:The important question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31252448)

Bing!

Re:The important question: (2, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252648)

Google!

Re:The important question: (2, Funny)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252798)

Yahoo!

Re:The important question: (2, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252834)

AltaVista!

Re:The important question: (2, Funny)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252898)

Sorry to combo-break this, guys, but... *whoosh*

So, I'll be nice and break it down for you.

Bing
Google
Yahoo!
AltaVista

Which of these appears, unaltered, above?

IOW, "Yahoo!" was /thread.

Re:The important question: (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31252934)

Infoseek!

Re:The important question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31252998)

Cuil!?!

Re:The important question: (4, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252668)

When are the "cheerleaders getting dressed" videos going to leak? You know someone was making them...

I didn't know you were into that. I'll borrow my mom's car after this hot pocket and go by salvation army today to get a cheerleader outfit and e-mail the video to you. Not sure what the odds are that they'll have a 3xl cheerleader skirt though...

Re:The important question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31253138)

That's no hot pocket. That's a god damn mega burrito.

why isn't this (4, Insightful)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252290)

criminally actionable under peeping Tom laws? Probably other laws too.

Because it was done on a computer, (4, Interesting)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252334)

thus laws from the normal world don't apply.

Re:Because it was done on a computer, (4, Insightful)

epee1221 (873140) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252368)

s/"on a computer"/"in a school"/

Re:Because it was done on a computer, (4, Informative)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252450)

why isn't this... criminally actionable under peeping Tom laws? Probably other laws too.

Because it was done on a computer. thus laws from the normal world don't apply.

Now that a judge has sided with the rest of the world that uses it's brains to choose right and wrong, I wouldn't be at all surprised if a class action lawsuit pops in. I dare say that many onlookers and also people involved would have been looking at this as a litmus test to see what the judicial reaction is. The judicial system has clearly said "This is a no-no!". As far as I can see, this is a green light for the "Well, you did wrong, now make it right with a bundle of cash" for those with the laptops etc.

* Side note: Stop putting half a sentence in the damned heading and finish it in the body. It's bloody annoying to quote.

But I (5, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252470)

* Side note: Stop putting half a sentence in the damned heading and finish it in the body. It's bloody annoying to quote.

Like to.

Re:Because it was done on a computer, (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252606)

Now that a judge has sided with the rest of the world that uses it's brains to choose right and wrong, I wouldn't be at all surprised if a class action lawsuit pops in.

They'll uninstall the spyware and just give the kids the laptops as a settlement.

"Oooh, look what I got! Shiny!"

Which is actually a good idea, because laptops do not belong in high school.

Re:Because it was done on a computer, (2, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252720)

laptops do not belong in high school.

of course not. I say they went off track when they first allowed those fancy click pens in schools. Now look at the shape the world is in. Damn click pens.

Re:Because it was done on a computer, (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252812)

Which is actually a good idea, because laptops do not belong in high school.

I agree that computers can be misused in school, just as any other tool can be misused in almost any setting.

But saying "laptops are useless in high school" sounds a lot like someone 50 years older saying "ball-point pens are useless in high school".

Do you have any evidence to suggest that computers are exceedingly difficult to use in a way the benefits high school education (but for some reason do not want to share that evidence)? Are you suggesting that you've done a cost/benefit analysis and decided that, while useful, computers are not worth the price (but then leave out all the relevant details and share only the conclusion of that analysis)? Or are you just some old man whining about how much harder school was when he did it?

Re:Because it was done on a computer, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31253118)

Which is actually a good idea, because laptops do not belong in high school.

Why not? I'm in a photojournalism class which is unable to teach photo manipulation techniques because of a shortage of computers.

never mind class action lawsuit (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252620)

this sounds like a conspiracy to deprive families (not just the students, although that would be bad enough) of their right to privacy. Seriously, someone should go to jail for a stunt like this. Also it strikes me as more than a little perverted.

Re:Because it was done on a computer, (4, Informative)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252626)

There already is a class action suit filed [slashdot.org] .

Re:Because it was done on a computer, (-1, Flamebait)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252686)

* Side note: Stop putting half a sentence in the damned heading and finish it in the body. It's bloody annoying to quote.

How about you piss off or else learn to deal with norms that existed on this site long before you stopped posting AC?

The remainder of your post... In an ideal world, that would be the case. But if you'd ever been through the court system, you'd know that nothing is settled and most judges are woefully unable to handle anything with a technical bent, including technicalities of law.

Re:Because it was done on a computer, (0, Flamebait)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252856)

You are kind of touchy today. Are you feeling well? Do you need some understanding and patience? Well...

How about you piss off or else learn to deal with norms that existed on this site long before you stopped posting AC?

Better?

Re:Because it was done on a computer, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31252958)

Now that a judge has sided with the rest of the world that uses it's brains to choose right and wrong, I wouldn't be at all surprised if a class action lawsuit pops in.

Ummm, actually, that's how this story became public in the first place - a class action lawsuit.

This is good... (1)

lag10 (667114) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252312)

Except for the fact that this could be the perfect time to steal one of the school's computers.

The school originally stated that the cameras were activated when thefts were reported. If it's prohibited from activating the security features at all, there may be an enhanced window of opportunity to steal one and get away with it.

Regardless, the school had it coming, activating the cameras without their users' knowledge.

Re:This is good... (1)

rugatero (1292060) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252888)

This is good... Except for the fact that this could be the perfect time to steal one of the school's computers.

Until this story came to light no-one knew of the anti-theft measures the school had taken. Now that the measures have been removed the window of opportunity is no bigger than it was a week ago.

Uh huh (1, Flamebait)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252316)

From the article:

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

Translation: We don't want you spying on students, we want you to pay us to do it for you!!!

Re:Uh huh (0, Offtopic)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252342)

Slashdot uses html-like tags, not BBCode-like tags.

Re:Uh huh (0, Offtopic)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252394)

By Default, anyways. I don't <b>Have</b> to use HTML if I don't want to. But yeah, BB isn't an option.

Re:Uh huh (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252592)

They also have a preview button. I have mine set so that I have to preview all my posts before submitting them. It saves me from making a lot of the errors I'd make otherwise.

Re:Uh huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31252772)

You still need a computer to format things for you? Can't your brain do it for you?

Re:Uh huh (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252682)

Translation: We don't want you spying on students, we want you to pay us to do it for you!!!

Absolute is de-activating the cameras:

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

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

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

This is absurd (3, Insightful)

cntThnkofAname (1572875) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252328)

It's bad enough that overzealous law systems stop school from doing their job, but now it looks like schools feel they have the right to invade students privacy (perhaps to save face on a possible lawsuit??)... ah the irony of an institution that teaches the constitution and doesn't feel bound by it. No matter how "good" the intentions of the school, this should NEVER be allowed.

Re:This is absurd (5, Interesting)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252574)

The absurd part is that a frigging Federal Judge had to step in and order them to stop. You know, ordered them to stop something they shouldn't have been doing in the first damned place.

Unreal.

Re:This is absurd (2, Insightful)

profplump (309017) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252830)

Presumably a federal judge can (or at least should) only order them to stop doing something if they shouldn't have been doing it in the first place, so I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.

Re:This is absurd (-1, Flamebait)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252868)

The absurd part is that a frigging Federal Judge had to step in and order them to stop. You know, ordered them to stop something that nobody has any evidence of them doing in the first damned place.

There, fixed that for you.
 
Seriously, among all the hype and hysteria - it is being overlooked that we have no way of knowing how the image came to be in the schools hands or the context it was taken under. None. Zip. Nada.

Nothing a little tape can't fix... (0, Redundant)

weazzle (1084967) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252344)

Just take a few rolls of masking tape to school, and the kids can fix the problem themselves.

Or chewing gum (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31252384)

I saw a film when I was about 6. Don't remember the name now, but it was about a boy who was possibly a military project, who escapes and steals a fighter plane.
He sticks his chewing gum over the lens of the cockpit camera.

I thought at the time, "That will come in handy".

Why do people keep on posting this (3, Insightful)

dreadlord76 (562584) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252392)

If someone steals something, and then you add a lock so they can't get in, does that "fix the problem"? Should the theft itself be prosecuted and punished?

Re:Nothing a little tape can't fix... (4, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252638)

Right. So you visitting a hospital fixes the issue of me stabbing you.

Re:Nothing a little tape can't fix... (3, Insightful)

baKanale (830108) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252768)

More like you wearing a bulletproof vest tomorrow fixes the problem of me shooting you today.

But where's the fines? (3, Interesting)

Orbijx (1208864) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252404)

I'm almost a little surprised that the school wasn't being penalized for this beyond the "Don't turn on the cameras, teehee~" I'm seeing here.

The concept of the technology makes sense -- get a visual of a thief using the stolen laptop. I'm okay with that. Wipe the Hard Drive on behalf of the customer's request if the unit is stolen and has information on it that shouldn't get out? Cool with me -- that's a feature people were able to buy on Dell's business laptops (Computrace, that is, with remote

The student did not report the laptop as stolen, so there's no feasible reason to be turning on the camera.
The school did not give birth to the student. There is no reason to monitor the student like a parent should.

I'm happy to see that the hammer is starting to fall in favor of students using these units, but will the hammer hit the nail on the head?

(Of note, I read the main article, but behind the corp walls of fire, I can't read some of the supporting articles and information.)

Re:But where's the fines? (3, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252500)

We don't actually know for sure whether the school did anything wrong. There's a hell of a lot of speculation in the complaint, and this is just a preliminary ruling.

Fact is, it doesn't make sense for the school to be spying on anyone. That's 1200 students to spy on in the hope that they might catch one of them doing something naughty. Why would the school do this?

There are all sorts of ways that the school could have got the photo through reasonably legitimate means. The suit alleges and speculates one way that is technically possible but it's just an allegation at the moment. We need to wait for a full trial before we find out whether the school did what was alleged, and to determine the punishment if they did.

Re:But where's the fines? (4, Insightful)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252662)

As aa parent, I can say that no matter how my child's school comes across pictures, they have NO BUSINESS what my child does off of their property unless *I* ask for their involvment. The exception would be if my kid is getting in trouble for bringing in inappropriate pictures to school. I don't care what they thought they saw this kid doing, theirrights stop with informing the parents.

Re:But where's the fines? (1)

Windwraith (932426) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252784)

>Fact is, it doesn't make sense for the school to be spying on anyone. That's 1200 students to spy on in the hope that they might catch one of them doing
>something naughty. Why would the school do this?

They might be terrorists or pedophiles of course. That's why everyone wants to spy on you.

Re:But where's the fines? (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252824)

That's 1200 students to spy on in the hope that they might catch one of them doing something naughty. Why would the school do this?

It wasn't a 'school' that did this, it was a person, or a small group of persons. And it's been shown time and time again that people who do things like this operate under one [or more] of several [nonexclusive] motives, including 1) presumption of guilt, 2) prurience, and 3) presumption of authority or privilege.

In other words, they were expecting to find something, that's why they did it. What specifically they expected is probably a function of whatever specific hangups the persons in authority possessed: drugs, sex, cheating, whatever...

Re:But where's the fines? (3, Insightful)

andreMA (643885) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252870)

We don't actually know for sure whether the school did anything wrong.

We're pretty sure they did, if we take at face value the statements of the district administrators.

Assuming the only activations were in the case of laptops being misplaced or stolen. as claimed publicly by the District, by pursuing it themselves rather than turning it over to the police department, they were acting as private investigators.

Pennsylvania, like most states, requires licenses for PIs. I strongly doubt the persons activating the cameras were so licensed.

That's the most generous reading of events I can come up with at this point.

Re:But where's the fines? (2, Insightful)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252892)

Fact is, it doesn't make sense for the school to be spying on anyone.

That's hardly a fact, and in any case things don't have to "make sense" to you for them to be true. Perhaps the people you're looking at are acting irrationally? Perhaps the problem is your own inability to think of that which to others is a plausible motive?

That's 1200 students to spy on in the hope that they might catch one of them doing something naughty.

Who says they're spying on all 1200 students? Ask any maker of mass produced goods whether it's necessary to test every single part and product in order to ensure good quality. It isn't, and the same principle may be applied to a population of students.

Why would the school do this?

One possibility: Somebody accused the student in question of either doing or dealing drugs. School officials decided to investigate and found exactly what they were looking for, except that it wasn't really what they were looking for.

Re:But where's the fines? (1)

Orbijx (1208864) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252538)

(Computrace, that is, with remote

Smoooooooooth, Orb.

That should have read:
(Computrace, that is, with remote data deletion. It worked by allowing the computer to receive commands remotely once it hits the internet anywhere long enough to do its job. A delete job can be sent to the unit, wiping the drive. It was designed to survive some hardware replacements, as well, so swapping out the HDD isn't enough. At the time I did my research, there was a TSR that would regenerate itself on any Windows OS if the entire hardware batch wasn't swapped, but by the time you've done that, you could have just bought a replacement machine!)

fines? who about hardtime for child porn? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252558)

fines? who about hard time for child porn? and for trying to cover it up.

Re:But where's the fines? (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252562)

I'm almost a little surprised that the school wasn't being penalized for this beyond the "Don't turn on the cameras".

This is just a preliminary injunction. The big legal hammer is being assembled and raised into hammering position. The school district is now in the very uncomfortable position of having the FBI, the Justice Department, and the ACLU all against them. Both Fox News and NPR are against them.

Re:But where's the fines? (1)

ralf1 (718128) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252698)

FWIW Computrace is Absolute Software.

Re:But where's the fines? (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252818)

Talking about parenting, this kind of stuff would be going way too far even for parents. If parents shouldn't do it, schools have no reason to go near it.

'At school' versus 'not at school' (0, Offtopic)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252478)

Reading one of the articles, on the possible surveillance used, it seems like people have conflicting points. I will make an over arching statement that I think everything the school district did was wrong because there was not full disclosure. I think many of the problems might have been solved with disclosure and a better thought out policy.

First, monitoring the computers at school. Many, if not all, schools have software to monitor the users actions on school computers. This is particularly useful for testing, or simply to make sure students are on tasks. Traditionally these computers have been school based desktops, so home issues are not a problem. Also, traditionally these computers have been monitored by people the students know, and the rules are well known. In this way extension to the laptop makes sense.

Which leads to the second question. Can student use a personal computer at school. I would say that school policy would go either way. I might suggest that a teacher might not want a students to use a unmonitored computer in a classroom where all the other computers are monitored. In TFA, a study hall situation was mentioned where the computer was taken up. The kid, of course, is not going to mention if they were off task, perhaps downloading music from limewire, but there may have been a reason. A school does not have to allow a personal computer any more than an iPod.

That said there should be a provision where a student can carry a personal computer which is used in unmonitored situation. In my experience, most of a students work can fit on an external drive, and it is not a big deal to hook it up, especially to Macs. Since MS machines require a driver for every single device, no matter how generic, there can be issues with permissions.

That said, laptops in schools is not a simple solution to anything. Taxpayers need to have their property protected, and students are a special case when it comes to spying by adults. Children are also a special case when it comes to the often underpaid employees who are paid to monitor the network. If policies and audit trails are not clearly laid out, then parent will of course be concerned.

Re:'At school' versus 'not at school' (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31252690)

Your long winded bull shit post failed to touch on the one pertinent topic here, why was the school monitoring the kid AT HOME. Thank you, and have a nice day.

Re:'At school' versus 'not at school' (1)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253036)

That about said it!

The court needs to stop them from wiping HDD's in (5, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252504)

The court needs to stop them from wiping HDD's in the systems before any evidence is wiped away.

Re:The court needs to stop them from wiping HDD's (3, Informative)

boarder8925 (714555) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252692)

FTFA:

The school district must also preserve all electronic evidence, including any photographs taken by remotely activated laptop cameras.

Re:The court needs to stop them from wiping HDD's (1)

loners (561941) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252770)

IANAL but I have heard that in a civil case, _intentional_ destruction of evidence (wiping the hard drives) can be used in court under the assumption that the evidence was showing that they were in the wrong.

The real story here (4, Insightful)

TheQuantumShift (175338) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252526)

Is how does any public school district have the cash to afford one macbook per child? That exceeds the total $ per student budget from when I was in school by a good amount...

Re:The real story here (5, Funny)

dclozier (1002772) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252702)

The cost was largely offset by the StudentSpyCam.tv website subscriptions.

Re:The real story here (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252848)

Most public school systems in urban areas spend over $15,000 per year per student, yet they are still cranking out functionally illiterate kids. It's a travesty.

Re:The real story here (3, Insightful)

Loki_1929 (550940) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253206)

Maybe that's because money isn't (and never has been) the problem. Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that teachers' unions fight to ensure that there are no consequences for failure for either the school as a whole or individual teachers. Maybe it all students had a voucher of $n of state funding so their parents could choose which school their child attends from the long list of local public, private, and charter schools, there would be a reason for public schools to actually work toward providing a decent education.

The formula they've been trained on for decades is that the worse you do, the more funding you get. It's not a big mystery why they haven't improved.

Wow. (4, Interesting)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252552)

Normally, when I come across stories like this, I figure that there are two sides to the story, that the school or business didn't really behave as ridiculously as the accuser is describing. There's usually a certain amount of sensationalism to such stories.

But in this case... the school really seems to be as stupid and as criminal as they first seemed, or MORE so. Every new piece of evidence is making it seem more and more like not only a screw-up, but that there should be some mass firings, if not jail time.

Re:Wow. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252918)

But in this case... the school really seems to be as stupid and as criminal as they first seemed, or MORE so. Every new piece of evidence is making it seem more and more like not only a screw-up, but that there should be some mass firings, if not jail time.

Given that there hasn't been a new piece of significant evidence come out since the release of the text of the lawsuit - hell, we haven't seen any evidence but the text of the lawsuit - that's an amazing claim.
 
I think you are confusing press releases, hype, and hysteria with evidence.

Re:Wow. (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253080)

Testimony from the kids that their laptop cameras had been activated repeatedly over the last several years? That it was punishable to deactivate or cover them? That wasn't part of the original story.

The picture is out (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31252596)

On youtube [youtube.com]

Re:The picture is out (1)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252736)

Rickroll.

It gets worse. They've been harrassing students (4, Informative)

jeko (179919) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252610)

FTFA:

"...school district employees, including the superintendent, Christopher McGinley, ... making 'loud speaker announcements to all students allegedly commenting on the litigation, making false and untrue accusations [and] disparaging the Plaintiffs.'"

Who doesn't understand that once the lawyers get involved, you shut the Hell up? What is wrong with these people?

Re:It gets worse. They've been harrassing students (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252754)

Who doesn't understand that once the lawyers get involved, you shut the Hell up? What is wrong with these people?

The lions are already loose and a few more won't matter.

The lawyers should have been involved from the moment the school began considering purchase of the laptops.

Re:It gets worse. They've been harrassing students (2, Insightful)

andreMA (643885) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253062)

So the lawsuit can be amended to include slander, and the entire student body are potential witnesses.

These people shouldn't be employed as janitors, let alone school administrators.

Camera question (2, Interesting)

Imagix (695350) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252640)

Two questions:
  1. Why didn't these people see the green light next to the camera?
  2. Why didn't they cover the camera with a little electrical tape?

Re:Camera question (3, Insightful)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252684)

Two questions:

  1. Why didn't these people see the green light next to the camera?
  2. Why didn't they cover the camera with a little electrical tape?

Reportedly the green light would flicker so briefly it could have been mistaken for part of a startup polling process.

If they had known the camera to be on, many would have thought of tape.

Re:Camera question (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252852)

Two questions:

  1. Why didn't these people see the green light next to the camera?
  2. Why didn't they cover the camera with a little electrical tape?

Reportedly the green light would flicker so briefly it could have been mistaken for part of a startup polling process.

Why would a thief let the original software boot at all? How could anti-theft software integrated with the OS ever work?

Because people are stupid, obviously.

Re:Camera question (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253170)

The overlap of idiots and thieves is pretty high.

Also, I'd being willing to bet that a prtty big proportion of "stolen" laptops are just "lost" - as in left in the teacher left them in room 123 last week.

Re:Camera question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31252706)

are you just tuning in?

they did see the green lights, and many did cover it with electrical tape, while others went to the school and asked about it, the school replied "it's a software glitch, the cameras are by no means taking pictures of you we assure you". Some bought the BS, some didn't.

Re:Camera question (4, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252716)

Would you people please read up on the fucking background before commenting?

Why didn't these people see the green light next to the camera?

Students DID notice the little green lights turning on. Many, many times. When they reported this to the district, the district said it was a "glitch."

Why didn't they cover the camera with a little electrical tape?

Why don't you walk around wearing a bullet proof vest? "Who cares if the district can spy on you, you can defeat them with tape." Uh, the school district shouldn't be fucking spying on students.

Re:Camera question (4, Informative)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252780)

"blame the victim" doesn't fly in any US court.
it *really* doesn't fly when the victims are children.

Re:Camera question (1)

hldn (1085833) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252828)

read the links!

1. some kids did. if they brought this up with the school tech people, they were told it was a 'malfunction'
2. some kids did. most didn't think the school would be so stupid as to commit such an invasion of privacy. oops.

Re:Camera question (5, Informative)

tftp (111690) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253034)

1. Why didn't these people see the green light next to the camera?

Some did. As the comment above explains, some even asked the school what's going on, and the school replied (lied, as it seems) that it's nothing to see here, move along.

2. Why didn't they cover the camera with a little electrical tape?

Some did. Majority, though, didn't - in part because they never noticed the light and in part because they were assured by the school that there is nothing to worry about.

It would be perfectly reasonable for a long-time /. reader, to smell the rat. But it is just as reasonable for a school student who is not a geek to not realize what may be happening. The students were also required to accept and use those laptops, and many would be rightfully afraid that any attempt to mess with them would result in expulsion, execution on the spot, or worse.

Re:Camera question (1)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253068)

Why should you have to cover up the camera at all?(assuming you haven't stolen it...)

School = Government (5, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252658)

So, the government turned on cameras that made their way into Citizen's homes without a warrent? Hmm. Also, the administrators: "We didn't do it! Must have been IT." That doesn't fly, the school is an indivisible entity, I don't care if the janitor did it: the school is responsible.

Metered response (2, Insightful)

JeffSh (71237) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252704)

I am absolutely shocked and appalled at the manner this software was deployed implemented and used. Fortunately the FBI and courts are involved and this matter will be put to rest quickly and justly.

That said, I think it's important that there be a metered and purposeful response to this problem. I fear that the parents of children going to this school district will seek some sort of civil damages for what occurred in this school district. That's probably the worst thing that could happen because where does that money come from? The school district, and that will cause irreparable harm to other programs at the school.

I hope that the parents and other involved parties realize that a civil judgment against the school district awarding significant damages will not help anyone. I think most of the administrative staff at the school should lose their jobs and be replaced, but to see this go to the point where lawyers are making tens of thousands in pursuit of a civil reward is unjust as well. It does the school district and students no good when the goal is to cease the activity and create a better school district.

Re:Metered response (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 4 years ago | (#31252960)

but to see this go to the point where lawyers are making tens of thousands in pursuit of a civil reward is unjust as well.

Without the lawyers the school administration would tell you to go pound sand.

Re:Metered response (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31253106)

This point has been aired, and responded to, on /. before.

When our government fails us, it's ultimately our responsibility. Who elected the board of ed in this town? Not everyone in the school district, after all, has a child in school.

The only way to properly motivate the entire populace of this town is to hit them in their wallets. When additonal funds for the school have to be raised after this suit, people (in this town and in others) will have a greater stake in not electing asshats*. If this was a civil suit against the federal government, would you make the same argument, that monetary damages should not be awarded?

m!

*(IMHO, before anything else in politics, this should be our greatest goal.)

Re:Metered response (1)

yoshi_mon (172895) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253108)

I fear that the parents of children going to this school district will seek some sort of civil damages for what occurred in this school district. That's probably the worst thing that could happen because where does that money come from? The school district, and that will cause irreparable harm to other programs at the school

Who do you then propose pays for the harm caused by their actions?

If I were one of those kids... (1)

NecroPuppy (222648) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252748)

I think a roll of electrical tape would cover me for the year.

Along with the excuse of, "Yeah, I left it open. I must have turned off the lights and been in another room."

How would they prove otherwise?

My initial theory is looking more likely. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31252788)

The stryde.hax writeup is enlightening and also terrifying. My initial theory, that this was all a scheme cooked up by a perverted IT "professional" in order to acquire a rich, on-demand source of child porn, is looking a lot more likely. If true, the IT admin, school board, and any administrators who approved the use of the technology should be tried under RICO statutes for conspiring to produce child pornography. These people should be imprisoned for life.

School District = Child Pornographers (3, Insightful)

RedLeg (22564) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252840)

If the school district thinks they have trouble now....

One good wank or any other nudity captured by this webcam mechanism turns the school district into child pornographers.

If this numbnuts administrator is st00pid enuf to spy on this psrticular kid, odds are it ain't the first time, and he's probably got the goods on his workstation.

I'd love to pull a forensic image of that drive and give it a good once over.

Re:School District = Child Pornographers (2, Funny)

MarkCollette (459340) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253086)

But then you would be in possession ;)

One part of this story... (4, Insightful)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252872)

...I don't quite get; isn't it conceivable to these Penn. school admins that kids eat candy, and that a lot of candy is the same approximate size and shape as many pills? How in the world did that particular school admin make the immediate leap to dealing drugs from a video of a student eating candy while using the notebook? Is this particular "scholar" so out of touch that he had no way to imagine the kid was eating candy? Like "I would never eat while using school equipment, so obviously that student is using drugs, and from there he's obviously dealing"? It boggles my mind that these people, who are supposed to be intelligent, would embark on a so completely unconstitutional (public school == county agency, and the Constitution blankets any such agency in all American jurisdictions) procedure, and then top it off by using this illegally obtained evidence to accuse a student (who has now gone from "student" to "victim") of dealing drugs. I mean, you have to really be off your rocker to believe this chain of stupidity would make sense to any sane judge.

I'm guessing there was some problem with drugs, or truancy, or something in this school system and a new teacher or young, idiot admin fresh out of liberal arts school with a goal to fight problems in public schools but completely ignorant of the law (but spent many hours playing video games in high school; Ms. Pac Man all time winnah) thought this might be a good idea. Its the only way I can make sense of the story...

Theft vs Privacy (1)

FartKnockerz (1750222) | more than 3 years ago | (#31252920)

While I understand the need to deter theft and misuse of the school district's property by a group of users that are less than 'computer savvy', prone to loss of expensive capital, and pretty smart about the opportunity to sell something like this on eBay -- this instance is a pure privacy violation.

If the school district did not have the laptop reported to it's IT department as stolen or missing, why were the cameras even activated? There have been reports around that the 'privacy light' indicator that the web cam is working was on so frequently that the students would put tape or sticky notes in front of the camera to avoid being spied on.

While kids can be pretty naive about some things, this generation and the one before it is probably quite a bit computer and Internet savvy; not to mention the fact that kids are generally more intuitive than adults -- they have less of a 'societal filter' than jaded adults do.

If the kids were blocking the web cams, and if the principal saw a student eating candy -- I'm pretty sure that these web cams were activated.

My question, is why? Especially if the capital had not been reported as stolen or missing? Perhaps some IT dude has a jones for young girls and thought he could catch one 'indisposed'?

There is more than meets the eye here.

Re:Theft vs Privacy (1)

xs650 (741277) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253056)

"My question, is why?.... Perhaps some IT dude has a jones for young girls and thought he could catch one 'indisposed'?"

Perhaps some IT dude or male administrator has a jones for young boys

Low Tech Solution...... (0, Redundant)

teleriddler (904253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31252992)

Maybe it is just me but if I were using one of these laptops and did not want to go rooting for the offending program wouldn't a small piece of tape over the camera do the trick? Just a thought --TR

So what? (0, Troll)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253024)

Wow look what happened, the school got in trouble. Here's how you figure out if the software is installed, on Windows just look in the registry with regedit, on Mac just use the terminal, if you can't do either because you don't know how then log off facebook and get some real skills that will serve you in life.

Apple (4, Insightful)

MarkCollette (459340) | more than 4 years ago | (#31253060)

If I was Apple, I would also sue the school. Apparently the school created the impression that the camera light flickering on was some wide-spread glitch with the iSight cameras on the notebook computers.

Webcam activation LEDs still "glitching"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31253126)

It has been reported that many LM District students had noticed their laptop webcam activation lights coming on briefly at times, and when some of the students complained about it they were told by administrators that it was just a "glitch." In light of the judicial and FBI attention now cast, I wonder if these so-called "glitches" have somehow mysteriously stopped occurring.

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