PA School Spying Editoral Team-Up with Fak3r from Fak3r.com
NOTE: Fak3r from fak3r.com and I are working together to bring you a multi-perspective piece on internet security and its abuses. Rarely are team-ups like this are seen except in the pages of “Marvel Team-Ups” or “Very Special Episodes of Diff’rnt Strokes.” Here is my half of this piece entitled:
“Does anyone have Chris Hansen’s Phone Number”
Here is the scenario, your kid gets a laptop from school, which your family has to keep insurance on. According to the school this laptop is to be for your child’s educational advancement and research. Your child’s school is providing technology to those that didn’t readily have access to it. Since the school can’t pick and choose who gets a school’s benefits…all kids in the high school get one. You are told that the school has placed “tracking” software on the laptops in case of theft or if it is lost. What they don’t tell you is that the school can access all aspects of the laptop at anytime, without the user of the laptop being aware of it being activated. Oh, one more thing. The school fails to mention that they monitor the software 24/7, in rotating 8 hour shifts with administrators drawing lots for the “coveted” 11pm to 7 am shift. As a parent how would you feel, if you find out that the laptop that the school gave your child, which you pay for insurance on, has been used to photograph your child and possibly you in various states of undress or as the lawsuit states:
“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 stages of dress or undress.” SOURCE
I am going to field a guess that your reaction is close to: OUTRAGE
I agree with you. As emotionally scarring as that may be, we need to address another point that this brings up. Did Lower Merion school district really think that all a child of high school age will use a computer for is school work? If the answer is yes, then why would a school constantly monitor the laptops 24 hours a day? SOURCE With social media sites being blocked in school (regardless of their use) there had to be some expectation of “other uses” of those computers. A 2008 survey of 1,280 teenagers and young adults of both sexes on Cosmogirl.com sponsored by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20% of teens (13-19) and 33% of young adults (20-26) had sent nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves electronically. Additionally, 39% of teens and 59% of young adults had sent sexually explicit text messages. Schools know stats like these. They are drilled into teacher’s and administrator’s heads at educational conferences and faculty development meetings. So, to assume that they didn’t assume some non-scholastic activity would be going on using these computers is completely ludicrous. That is the real issue!
Reasonable people would agree that the Lower Merion School District knew the kids would be using the computers for things outside of school work. So, at some point some tech coordinator in that school district recommended they use Absolute Manage, formerly known as LANRev, to track the computers “in case of theft.” This program has a feature called Theft Track that allows the computer’s camera to be turned on and used to take pics of whatever is in view of the camera at any time. The maker of the program has said of Theft Track,
“Webcam pictures are not useful in tracking down the culprit,” said Stephen Midgely, vice president of global marketing for Absolute Software, which recently bought the LANrev software. The user in the picture is often not the person who stole the computer, and the photos are usually inadmissible in court, he said..” SOURCE
So, why would the Lower Merion School District choose use that program when the Vice President Of The Company That Makes The Software says it has no real value in locating a stolen laptop?
In the face of the maker of the software saying it has no real value in theft prevention: I give you this quote from a Lower Merion school district employee:
“Fantastic feature – I can’t speak highly enough of it,” network technician Michael Perbix said, describing how the system could not only provide network address data to help police track down a missing machine but also send back screen shots and pictures from the built-in camera at regular intervals.”
Apparently the school district and its’ tech wing were eager to use a program whose very usage contradicts its purpose. The laws that protect children from predators should be in play here. If ANY of the laptop “security software” was activated on ANY of the laptops that were not reported as lost or stolen and it comes to light that the allegations about 24/7 monitoring and “the coveted monitoring hours of 11pm to 7 am” are true then there had to be ANOTHER reason for the viewing of the cams onboard that laptop and that REASON is what troubles me the most.
Now that you are good and disgusted, go get the REST OF THE STORY from the other 1/2 of this dynamic writing team-up. Swing over to Fak3r.com and read Phil’s post highlighting some other considerations of this case.