School accused of spying on students at home

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PostFri Feb 19, 2010 6:39 am » by Dirttyrabbit


A US high school has been accused of spying on students at home through webcams in their laptops.

A lawsuit filed against the Lower Merion School District in Philadelphia claims laptop computers issued to students by the school came with remotely-activated webcams which it used to monitor their activities at home.

The suit also alleges the school kept its ability to activate the cameras secret from students and parents when the laptops were issued.

The surveillance allegedly came to light after Harrington High School assistant principal Lindy Matsko reprimanded a student for "improper behaviour in his home".

"Cited as evidence was a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor plaintiff's personal laptop issued by the school district," the suit says.
The boy's father then confronted Ms Matsko about the photograph and was told about the school's ability to turn the webcams on remotely, it claims.

The suit was filed on behalf of the student and his family as well as all other students and families who were affected. The Lower Merion district includes two schools with an estimated 1800 students.

It is alleged the school district, its board of directors and its superintendent violated several laws including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Civil Rights Act.
http://www.news.com.au/technology/school-accused-of-spying-on-students-at-home/story-e6frfro0-1225832172208
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PostFri Feb 19, 2010 6:42 am » by Bahb3


Ouch, Stone Cold Busted!

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PostFri Feb 19, 2010 6:54 am » by sockpuppet


I wonder, can hackers turn the cameras on remotely? What if it is some guy who wants to spy on his wife? What if it is a pervert who wants to watch the woman he's stalking?
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PostFri Feb 19, 2010 7:00 am » by Bahb3


Absolutely. Most cases though you need a payload delivered (virus / Trojan).

Someone would have to intentionally remove all security from their computer to allow any joe blow connected on the net to access a camera.

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PostFri Feb 19, 2010 7:00 am » by Princessleia


Wow, that is really scary and disgusting... Especially, if they were spying on them when they were dressing or undressing. That is really sick!
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PostFri Feb 19, 2010 7:10 am » by Dirttyrabbit


Lawsuit: PA School District Using School-Issued Laptop Webcams to Spy on Students
February 17, 2010
http://americasright.com/?p=3159
A class action lawsuit filed late yesterday in Federal Court in Philadelphia has shed light on a secret surveillance program targeting Americans, but this particular operation is not being run by the FBI or the NSA. It’s being run by the Lower Merion School District, in the old-money Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia, PA.

The complaint, filed by minor high school student Blake Robbins and his parents, alleges that the school district has been spying on the activities of students and students’ families through the “indiscriminant use of and ability to remotely activate the webcams incorporated into each laptop issued to students,” all without the knowledge or consent of any of the students or parents involved.

Through a one-to-one laptop computer initiative funded by state and federal grants, each of the approximately 1,800 students in the school district’s two high schools, Harriton High School in Rosemont, PA and Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, PA were issued a webcam-equipped personal laptop computer. The initiative, according to remarks by Superintendent—and defendant—Christopher McGinley on the district’s Web site, “enhances opportunities for ongoing collaboration, and ensures that all students have 24/7 access to school based resources and the ability to seamlessly work on projects and research at school and at home.”

What students and parents did not know, however, was that the 24/7 access goes both ways. According to the complaint, nowhere in any of the documentation accompanying the laptops or otherwise disseminated to students and parents was any reference made to the ability of the school district to remotely activate the webcam embedded in each laptop at any time, according to the district’s discretion.

How the capability was discovered should be enough to put any who value civil liberties and privacy on the edge of their seat. From the complaint (emphasis mine):

On November 11, 2009, Plaintiffs were for the first time informed of the above-mentioned capability and practice by the School District when Lindy Matsko, an Assistant Principal at Harriton High School, informed minor Plaintiff that the School District was of the belief that minor Plaintiff was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor Plaintiff’s personal laptop issued by the School District.

It was only then that Blake Robbins’ father, Michael, verified from Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko that the school district did in fact have the capability of remotely activating the cameras embedded in the district-issued laptop computer wherever the computer may be situated and regardless of whether the student is using it, and that the school district could at any time choose “to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of any persons then and there using the laptop computer.”

The school district’s conduct, the plaintiffs allege, runs afoul of not only the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, but also a laundry list of federal and state laws intended to protect the privacy of people and stored information alike. This includes the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, §1983 of the Civil Rights Act, the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, and Pennsylvania common law as well.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs voice concerns as to any students or family members who could have been caught in “embarrassing and humiliating” situations, noting that “the laptops at issue were routinely used by students and family members while at home,” and that “many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors and their parents or friends in compromising or embarrassing positions, including, but not limited to, in various stage of dress or undress.”

Blake Robbins and his parents are represented by Mark Haltzman of Lamm Rubenstone LLC. Class members include any students who have been issued webcam-equipped personal laptop computers by the Lower Merion School District. The plainiffs are seeking punitive and other damages stemming from the school district’s invasion of privacy.

another link
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100218/ap_ ... n_students
and another
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/ ... nomyId=146
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PostFri Feb 19, 2010 7:14 am » by sockpuppet


Still, that reeks of 1984... or of Nazis scaring little children into turning in their parents.
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PostFri Feb 19, 2010 7:21 am » by Bahb3



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PostFri Feb 19, 2010 10:35 pm » by Dirttyrabbit


http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/0 ... veillance/


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A suburban Philadelphia school district is deactivating a webcam, theft-tracking program secretly lodged on 2,300 student laptops following allegations the device was used by administrators to spy on a boy at home.

“I think given the concerns of parents and community members, I think we have a responsibility to at least take a pause and review the policy,” Lower Merion School District spokesman Doug Young said in a telephone interview Thursday evening.

The move came a day after the 6,900-pupil district, which provides students from its two high schools free Macbooks, was sued in federal court on allegations it was undertaking a dragnet surveillance program targeting its students — an allegation the district denied. Young said the computer-tracking program was activated a “handful” of times solely to track a missing laptop.

The suit was based on a student’s claim, acknowledged by the district, that the webcam was used by school officials to chronicle “improper behavior” based on a photo the computer secretly took of the boy at home. (.pdf) in November.

The assistant principal at Harriton High informed the student “that the school district was of the belief that minor plaintiff was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor plaintiff’s personal laptop issued by the school district,” according to the lawsuit.

Young declined to directly say whether the program was activated in this instance to locate a missing laptop. He said the district only activates it when there is a reported missing laptop, and urged Threat Level to draw its own “inferences.”

“The only situation where the feature would have been activated is in the case of a stolen, missing or lost laptop,” Young said. “There’s never been any scenario used for any purpose other than that.”

Lawyers for the student did not return phone calls and e-mails for comment.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status to represent all the district’s 2,300 high school students. “Unbeknownst to plaintiffs and members of the class, and without their authorization, defendants have been spying on the activities of plaintiffs and class members by defendants’ indiscriminate use of and ability to remotely activate the webcams incorporated into each laptop issued to students by the school district,” according to the complaint.

When the district began issuing laptops to all its students two years ago, it never informed them of the tracking feature, said Young, the district spokesman.

He conceded that district officials went too far. The program was not intended to bring to light the private behaviors of adolescent boys, he conceded.

“It did not seek specifically to do that,” Young said.

The name and maker of the program, Young said, was not immediately available. He described the program as one that “basically enables the district to capture an image of the desktop and whatever is in front of the screen for law enforcement to help track down a missing computer.”

See Also:

* Top Internet Threats: Censorship to Warrantless Surveillance
* Code for Skype Spyware Released to Thwart Surveillance
* Deep-Packet Inspection in U.S. Scrutinized Following Iran Surveillance
* FBI ‘Going Dark’ with New Advanced Surveillance Program
* FBI Recorded 27 Million FISA ‘Sessions’ in 2006
* Teen Kills Self on Justin.tv — Update
* Security Camera Hack Conceals Heists Behind Dummy Video
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PostFri Feb 19, 2010 11:20 pm » by Thesaint


The scariest thing about all this is we have a senior member of the school actually calling in the student in question for "improper behaviour", as if it's the most normal thing to do. To think that there is a mindset like this out there that thinks it's acceptable. What kind of a society are we becoming? SICK! :cheers:


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