School spying through laptop webcam

The Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania has a wonderful program that offers laptops to 2,300 high school students, with a goal of bridging the technological gap between students who have computers at home and those who do not.

They also allegedly used it to spy on a student in his home.

According to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, an assistant principal at Harriton High School told a student that he had been observed engaged in “improper behavior” at home, captured through the webcam on the school-issued laptop.

That student’s parents are now suing the Lower Merion School District, its board of directors and the superintendent, alleging the district unlawfully invaded their home through the laptop’s camera.

The school district’s website says good things about the programs… It’s meant to “enhance opportunities for ongoing collaboration and ensure that all students have 24/7 access to school-based resources.” And according to spokesman Doug Young, the district could only access that camera if it had reported the laptop lost, stolen, or missing, and they’d have to go through red tape to get authorization.

The students’ family says they were unaware of the possibility that the school could view the inside of their home through the laptop. Mr. Young says the family had to sign an “acceptable use” agreement, but it only mentions that the district can “monitor” the hardware.

I for one am horrified at the notion of someone — anyone — having access to look through the webcam of my computer without warning. I think it’s despicable that the school district was looking in on a student’s home without permission or, as far as we can tell, good reason.

All of that aside, though, I’m dying to know what the hell the “inappropriate behavior” was.

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