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School Issued Laptops Used To Spy On Students

February 19, 2010

Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania issued laptops to high school students, which sounds like a nice thing to do.  What doesn’t sound so nice is that these laptops that they issued to some of their students had software installed on them that was used to secretly monitor their activities.  Now, as bad as that sounds I’m fairly certain that it’s not all that uncommon, businesses do this all the time I would imagine.

What businesses don’t usually do is use the web-cam on the laptop to actually watch what the laptop user is doing.  That is something that seems a little too intrusive if you ask me.  Apparently on a recent episode of PBS’s Frontline show they interviewed a school that was doing just that, using the web-cams on laptops to watch students while they were in class.  Amazingly enough, the school officials that were featured on the show were quite proud of the technical savvy they were displaying.

For the whole PBS – Digital Nation program visit PBS.

All of this is bad enough, but watching what kids are doing in school isn’t exactly an invasion of privacy I would imagine.  However, what this particular school in the Lower Merion School District did was no doubt a severe invasion of privacy, to say the least!  They took this process one step farther by using those webcams to not only watch kids while they were at school but also while they were outside of school, in the privacy of their own homes and bedrooms!  Last time I checked, spying on teenagers and their families in their homes was a big no-no.  The fact that it is a trusted institution, such as a high school only makes it that much more heinous in my opinion.

The only reason that all of this even came to light is because the Vice Principal decided to discipline one of his students for something he caught him doing at home.  I must have missed the part where a Teacher/Principal was responsible for disciplining kids for what they do away from school.  Didn’t that used to be the parents job?  I want to know what in the world that Vice Principal was thinking when he decided to use photos taken by this web-cam as evidence against the student?  Did he not realize that what he was doing was horribly wrong, most likely a felony and quite possibly child pornography if students were undressing in their bedrooms with this laptop on?

Needless to say a class action lawsuit is being brought against the Lower Merion School District and everyone involved courtesy of all the students who were issued these laptops.  Good for them, and I hope the school district loses and everyone who was involved is fired at the very least.  I would also like to see criminal charges brought against them as well as the civil suit.  I can’t think of too many things more creepy than having grown men who are put in a trusted position of authority spying on young kids in the (supposed) privacy of their own homes.

Robbins v. Lower Merion School District Civil Action (PDF)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2010 5:17 pm

    Wow! I had no idea. That just creepy and….goodness, what’s happening to our country, huh? No privacy at all. And yeah, since when do teachers and school officials have the right to spy on kids at home? Unbelievable!

    • February 19, 2010 5:51 pm

      Its situations like this that make me glad I live in Canada, lol.

      Yeah, what were they thinking spying on them at home? Even more so, what in the world made them think they could discipline a kid for something they did at home? The scary thing I keep wondering is how many officials at this school must have known they were doing this and did nothing to stop it?

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