A recent shocking incident which involves a Pennsylvania school district intruding students’ privacy has sparked off outrage among parents and students. Lower Merion High School District is accused of using a school-issued laptop to spy on a student in his home, and Blake’s family claims the school remotely triggered the computer’s Webcam and observed the boy without his knowledge.
The webcams are actually meant to keep track of stolen, missing and lost laptops but the school administrators misuse the feature and use it to spy on students’ behavior at home instead. The practice had been in place for the past 14 months but was only discovered after Blake was accused by a Harriton High School official of “improper behavior in his home” and shown a photograph taken by his laptop.
“District laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. The security feature, which was disabled today, 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.
Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature would be activated by the District’s security and technology departments. The security feature’s capabilities were limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator’s screen. This feature was only used for the narrow purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District never activated the security feature for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever.” ~ quoted from a letter from the district superintendent.
Have you ever wondered how teachers spy on students through laptop webcams. Well, below is a video which shows a quintessential example of how it is done. Assistant Principal Dan Ackerman at Intermediate School 339 Bronx, NY. Ackerman demonstrates how he remotely monitors the students’ laptops to check for inappropriate use. And he even boasts that he could use the Macbook webcam to review the attire of the student.
Touted as the “one of the world’s most Apple-savvy schools“, Maris Stella High School embraces Apple technology for teaching and learning. Not surprisingly, my school is also using ARD (Apple Remote Desktop) to remotely monitor student’s activities on their MacBook. However, webcam spying software isn’t installed on laptops unlike the two incidents mentioned above.
Teachers do activate ARD in class and students sometimes get caught too for inappropriate use. A couple of students even know how to block ARD so that they can play games on their Mac. Besides using ARD, my school also incorporates the use of a system that keeps a history of which students visit what websites as every student has a unique username and password to the school’s wireless network. Students may think that they can sneak their way through by plugging in a wireless USB into their Macbook but the school harnesses a system that blocks such wireless signals within the school compound.
Imagine your teachers spying on every single URL you type into the browser address bar or which applications you are on in real time. I understand that schools don’t want students to misuse the laptop and to focus on their school work instead but no one would want the teachers to look into every personal detail. And the case in Pennsylvania school district is totally unacceptable. Spying at home? That’s probably worse than installing a camera in a ladies lavatory, don’t you think so?