School Surveillance Via Student Laptop Webcams
School-issued laptops are being used to spy on children both at school and at home, according to the filings in Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District (PA) et al. Administrators were able to activate the laptop's webcam at will, and take pictures of children and their families.
The issue came up when the Robbins' child was disciplined by the school for "improper behavior in his home" and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence.
If these allegations are true, it's not as if we haven't been warned. Cory Doctorow, writing in his 2008 book Little Brother, wrote about exactly this sort of practice:
(Little Brother cover [non-etext version])
I got back to class and sat down again... I unpacked the school's standard-issue machine and got back into classroom mode. The SchoolBooks were the snitchiest technology of them all, logging every keystroke, watching all the network traffic for suspicious keywords, counting every click, keeping track of every fleeting thought you put out over the net. We'd gotten them in my junior year, and it only took a couple months for the shininess to wear off. Once people figured out that these "free" laptops worked for the man -- and showed a never-ending parade of obnoxious ads to boot -- they suddenly started to feel very heavy and burdensome.
Cracking my SchoolBook had been easy. The crack was online within a month of the machine showing up...
(Read more about Doctorow's SchoolBook laptop)
See also the scoop on ParanoidLinux.
Update: In a statement released late Thursday, Christopher McGinley, the superintendent of Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa., admitted that the MacBooks' cameras could be turned on without the user's knowledge, but said that the functionality was part of a security feature.
"Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off-school property," said McGinley. "The security feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student."
Laptop cameras have only been activated for that purpose, McGinley continued. "The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever," he said.
From Robbins v. Lower Merion School District (pdf) via BoingBoing.; update from Computerworld.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/17/2010)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 6 )
Related News Stories -
Zephyr Solar-Electric Stratospheric Drone
'The planes flew continuously, twenty-four hours a day...' - EB White, 1950.
Robot Hummingbird Hovers Biomimetically
'With a buzz... it started out on its journey.' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1936.
Capitalist Big Brother Co-Opts Regular Big Brother
'It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.' - George Orwell, 1948.
Juggalo Face Paint Disrupts Facial Recognition
'... designed to foil facial recognition systems.' - Neal Stephenson, 2019
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Extremophile Microbe Loves Space Rocks
'... designed for rooting in the metal make-up of the asteroids for vital elements.'
Magic Mushroom Nose Spray From Silo Wellness
'I don't need help... that's not my diagnosis!'
CAV-X Supercavitating Ammo Deadly Underwater
'...in the midst of this fluid, which is very dense compared with the atmosphere, shots could not go far.'
Space Domes Over-rated? Science Fiction Authors Have Answers
'This was to be roofed over, sealed, and an atmosphere provided...'
Injectable Magnetic Fluid Slows Bleeding, Aids Magneto
'There's something different about you.'
Autonomous Wheelchairs Improve Airport Mobility
'Noiselessly, on rubber-tired wheels, they journeyed down the long aisles...'
HVSD, Kitty Hawk's Electric Plane
Very quiet commuter plane offers VTOL service.
Frictionless Toilet Could Save 140 Billion Liters Of Water
'The bowl was a frictionless surface...'
Viisights AI Hones Video Surveillance
'The math boys worked it out...'
Cybertruck The Solar-Powered Steel Tortoise
'It drew its power from... sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
Road Noise Charges Electric Cars With Peugeot Piezoelectric Billboard
''... major cities of Earth have free electrical power conveniently processed from their own noise.'
Unsinkable Metal Latest Gates Obsession
'A metal... light as cork.'
M-Blocks 2.0 Self-Assembling Robots
'Faster the cubes moved...'
NASA 'Broomstick' Recalls SciFi Ideas
'The appearance was enough like a giant witch's broom to justify the nickname.'
Orbital Display's Low Earth Orbit Advertisements
'A vast circle of scarlet stars came up into the greenish desert dusk.'
Neuromorphic Computing Hardare
'He had constructed an organ, a brain, of metal, entirely inorganic and lifeless...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories