Tech Topic: School Spying On Students At HOME!

By: Julian Ross

Imagine your school has this awesome new initiative that involves everyone receiving a 15″ MacBook Pro for free. Think of all the work you would get done on it, and the fun you would have doing it. Now think about that same laptop watching you in your sleep…

Kinda kills the awesome part. Just makes it… creepy.

Well that is EXACTLY what has happened in a Pennsylvania school. Harriton High School in the Lower Merion school district is where this truly wild story has been unfolding since February 18th. So here’s the rundown, stay with me.

A kid gets called into the assistant principal’s (Lindy Mastko) office for “Inappropriate behavior at home.” Kid and his parents are rightly confused, at which Mastko informs them that the school accessed the webcam on the laptop the child was given. Soon thereafter a class-action suit was filed. Other students claimed that they would see the little green light next to the iSight cameras come on, seemingly at random, and had reported the issue to school technicians, only to be told that it was a “technical glitch.” After the madness began, the district superintendent Christopher McGinley issued a statement saying that the software was to help locate and recover the laptops if stolen. Sounds good, but doesn’t make much sense considering all of this began after a student was being punished for his behavior at home.

The FBI caught wind of the story and decided to see whats really going on down in Lower Merion, at which point the district acknowledged that they had activated the cameras a total of 42 times over 14 months. Again the claim is that all cases were to recover stolen or missing laptops, and not secretly watching kids at home. As this investigation is going forward, the makers of LANRev, the spy software that was installed on students’ computers, have been trying their hardest to distance themselves from the case, as the school continues to take more heat on its’ security policies. Apparently these “monitored laptops” were MANDATORY for class and the use of any personal or otherwise unmonitored laptop were grounds for expulsion. Any tampering with or otherwise disabling the camera were also grounds for expulsion.

Brief explanation of how the program works.

This story is still developing as we speak and is getting major play on the technology sites but surprisingly a lot of people haven’t even heard of this craziness. In this ultra-connected age of Skype, Twitter, the all knowing god of the internet Google and now secret spying MacBooks, is privacy the most endangered species?

For those interested, there is an hour long promotional webcast about LANRev and how it works available for download HERE – mp4

Inform. Educate. Entertain.

Sources:

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