Friday, February 19, 2010

School Violates Privacy of Students Via Laptop Webcams

Violating federal and state laws as well as the 4th Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Way to go, Lower Merion School District of Pennsylvania. That's what happened and they're being subject to a class-action lawsuit that's gonna cost the district a lot of time and money.  The school gave students laptops as part of their high school curriculum.  Many schools across the country (world) have done that but this is the first instance I've heard of where the webcam is secretly used to violate the privacy of people in their home.

Oh, yeah, I've read one other instance where this has happened.  In the book 1984 by George Orwell.  Read it. It's a must if you haven't.  The telescreen has a video camera to spy on the viewer.  More recently, I saw that on an episode of Fring.

Since then, the school has deactivated the ability to use the laptop's webcam to spy on the students at home. But what were they thinking?! More at Sci-Tech Today.

Now, I am wondering.  Can this really happen without us knowing about it?  Seriously, with the bugs and holes in the browser and some OS, viruses and such, it is possible a hacker or an entity like your local school district can hack into your laptop (most laptops now have a webcam) and use the built-in camera to spy on you?

More and more, we are being told that privacy going forward is going to be different from what we're used to.  That we need to abandon previous notions of what others are allow to know about us.  Fine but in this instance in Pennsylvania, this has gone beyond that.

For those technically inclined readers out there, can Apple, Microsoft, or other developers and hackers remotely turn our laptops, phones, and other mobile devices into spying apparatus without us knowing?

I share information about me willingly on Twitter, Facebook, or whatever I publish on blogs.  Keyword:  Willingly.  But the notion that someone can see what we do at home is frightening.  I hope whoever thought it was a good idea to install the program that allows the school district to monitor their students in the privacy of their homes gets taken out to the wood shed and is never heard from again.

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