Wow

A week ago (sadly, my most recent blog post) I blogged about a school district monitoring their students by remotely turning on the webcams of their school-issued laptops.  This story has really ballooned.  On one site I have been following a thread about it and many links have been posted.  Here are a few- click the titles for the full articles:

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Lower Pervian School District vs. Mike and Ikes

…AP reports the FBI is investigating the school district’s webcam program, and district spokesman Doug Young suggests without claiming that Harriton High School student Blake J. Robbins’ webcam was activated only because the laptop had been reported stolen — in accordance with an established policy. The boy was charged with an undisclosed infraction based on an image the school picked up from his webcam. District superintendent Christopher W. McGinley, in an orotund statement, defends the program while canceling it. And just to make clear that we’re still in high school, Master Robbins appears to have gotten in trouble when he was photographed eating Mike and Ikes…

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Federal judge orders Pa. schools to stop laptop spying

…Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Jan DuBois issued a consent order that prevents Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa., from “remotely activating any and all web cams embedded in lap top [sic] computers issued to students … or from remotely taking screenshots of such computers.”

Lower Merion spokesman Doug Young said today that the district would fully cooperate with the court order…

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The Spy at Harriton High (and more)

…The truly amazing part of this story is what’s coming out from comments from the students themselves. Some of the interesting points:

  • Possession of a monitored Macbook was required for classes
  • Possession of an unmonitored personal computer was forbidden and would be confiscated
  • Disabling the camera was impossible
  • Jailbreaking a school laptop in order to secure it or monitor it against intrusion was an offense which merited expulsion

When I spoke at MIT about the wealth of electronic evidence I came across regarding Chinese gymnasts, I used the phrase “compulsory transparency”. I never thought I would be using the phrase to describe America, especially so soon, but that appears to be exactly the case…

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Software maker blasts ‘vigilantism’ in Pa. school spying case

The company selling the software used by a Pennsylvania school district to allegedly spy on its students blasted what it called laptop theft-recovery “vigilantism” today.

Absolute Software said it dissuades users of theft-recovery software from acting on their own. “We discourage any customer from taking theft recovery into their own hands,” said Stephen Midgley, the company’s head of marketing, in an interview Monday. “That’s best left in the hands of professionals.”…

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There is now a Wikipedia page about the ongoing investigation of this lawsuit, though the blogs and articles (full of even more links for your perusal by the way) are more interesting IMHO.

Next up, something about my own unexciting life.  Hopefully. 🙂

How Far is Too Far?

Besides being a song from a show I was in once, this is a question we ask ourselves over and over again as the government or some other entity does some eyebrow-raising stunt.  It seems a lot of such stunts have occurred in the recent decades, and this one isn’t going to make you feel better.  The question here is, what should a school be allowed to do to keep tabs on their students or the school property they use, in this case laptop computers?  A lawsuit has been brought against a school district for remotely activating webcams when the computer is off-site.  This came to light when a school had the gall to discipline a student for something that happened at his home using webcam footage as evidence.  Now I can fully understand monitoring computer use when the computers are at the school.  After all, at school students should be engaged in schoolwork.  But at home?  It isn’t mentioned just what the student did at home, but even if it had something to do with the computer, should the school really be allowed to turn on the webcam?  What if the student left his or her computer open in the bedroom while undressing for the night or to shower?  I really hope this school goes down for this, but not with some big financial settlement as it would be the taxpayers of course who wind up paying.  What a stupid decision, in my humble opinion of course.  Here is the article:

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BoingBoing: School used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home

School used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home

Wake up sleeping student and get sued?

Apparently parents of a high school student are considering just that after a teacher woke up a student by slapping her hand on the student’s desk.  According to their claim he suffered hearing loss as his ear was on the desk at the time and the sudden sound ruptured his eardrum.  If this is true, then I fully understand the parents’ concern, but something doesn’t seem quite right here.  From the article:

Barry said the boy’s ear hurt instantly after Nadeau hit his desk.

“He woke up and immediately felt pain in his ear,” Barry said. “I think he was so taken aback that he didn’t say anything at the time.”

The next day, Vinicios’ parents took him to the hospital after he complained of hearing loss and they discovered a bloody fluid on his pillow.

If his eardrum burst as they say, wouldn’t he have been in so much pain he would have said something?  Screamed out in pain?  Immediately gone to the nurse? I just don’t know…

Sleepy Student Claims Teacher’s Wake-Up Slam Caused Hearing Loss