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Friday, February 19, 2010

Lawsuit alleges school officials spied on students at home via webcams

If true, this is worse than George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. At least in that book the people of Oceania knew that the telescreens were everywhere watching them.

What I'd love to know is: how does a public school system - any public system mind ya - have enough money in these dire economic times to give a laptop computer to each and every student?

According to a lawsuit filed in federal court, administrators of the Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania could and were using the built-in webcams on laptops given to students of Harriton High School to watch them in the privacy of the students' homes (and obviously without knowledge or consent of the students or their parents). The revelation about the webcams came to light when Harriton High School Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko told student Blake J. Robbins that Robbins was "was engaged in improper behavior in his home" and showed him a photograph taken from Robbins' laptop webcam. Robbins' father confronted Matkso and received confirmation: school officials can remotely access the webcams even if the students aren't using the computers at all.

Lower Merion administrators claim it's an anti-theft security feature. But "Occasionally a green light would go on on your computer which would kind of give you the feeling that somebody’s watching you," Harriton High School student Drew Scheier told an NBC affiliate in Philadelphia.

Let's see due process run its course on this folks. And if it is determined in a court of law that Lower Merion officials and faculty were spying on students with the webcams, then the whole sorry lot of 'em need to be dragged out into the street and hung from the nearest telephone poles by their circular reproductive units. With piano wire.

(And here's the full text of the lawsuit, if you are so interested.)