School spied on pupils through webcams in their home

Frankly incredible story this one.. a school lent laptops to its pupils to take home with them, and then used the webcams built into the computers to spy on what was going on in the pupil’s homes, according to a court case cited by Boing Boing. The webcams could be remotely activated by school administrators.

Surely this would be illegal if the CIA did it, never mind Harriton High School in the Lower Merion district of Philiadelphia.

The surveillance came to light when one boy was disciplined for “improper behavior in his home” and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence. The boy’s parents Robbins are now taking a court case against the school board, and the rest of the pupils given the computers (1,880 of them) are part of the class action.

194 class action document.jpg

I can only imagine the school didn’t want their students accessing youtube or facebook or other non-work related sites on the computers they gave them, but really they should have locked down the browser or put on ‘parental’ controls or something. Having webcams into children’s rooms that can be remotely activated is so many levels of wrong. As the prosecution puts it the deprivation of privacy was “intentional, extreme and outrageous”.

Boing Boing point out a) that if you have a laptop in your bedroom you could easily leave it on when dressing/undressing or talking about private things to members of your family or your friends on the phone. b) Schools are always going on to children about the dangers of the internet and worry about pedophiles and chatrooms. Hypocrisy?
Flagrant abuse of children’s right to privacy? looks like it..

Robbins v Lower Merion School District as pdf here and Boing Boing story

Anna Leach


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