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School disregards child welfare with covert webcams

School disregards child welfare with covert webcams

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Adding webcams to school laptops

Last week I stumbled across this disturbing news story, which got me thinking about privacy.

A Philadelphia school issued 2300 students with mandatory laptops and forbade them from using their own computers at school.  Nor were they allowed to modify or install any other software on the machines.

So far, this all sounds pretty normal.

Installed on the machines was software which could covertly activate the laptop webcam as a “security measure” in case the laptops were stolen.

The webcams were activated on “rare” occasions – but not necessarily because the laptops had been lost or stolen.  The administrator who allegedly activated the software is on paid leave and pleading the Fifth Amendment.

Disturbed yet?

Thousands of images were captured – including images of students sleeping and undressing.  Worryingly, one student was even disciplined at school for “popping pills” at home (he claims he was eating sweets).

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really liked the idea of webcams. 

I have one installed on my new work laptop, but will probably avoid using it (for my office is never as tidy as I’d like everyone to believe). 

Will I use it? Most likely – but it will be when I choose to use it, and have activated it myself. 

Would I feel comfortable with somebody else activating it whenever they want?  No. Would you? 

Activate my webcam now and all you’d see is a rather tired #moderngoverness blogging on a bad hair day.

Activate it tomorrow morning, and I’ll be getting ready for the day.  Activate it randomly throughout the day tomorrow and you’ll catch me drinking tea, on the phone or singing to my dog (he likes it). 

Over the weekend, you might (okay, you will) catch me after a few glasses of wine. Would I want pictures like that circulated?  Not necessarily – I control what images I put “out there”.

To a certain degree everyone online invades their own privacy – by posting status updates, feelings, photos, locations. 

But we choose when and what we say and post – would you want that invaded by anyone else when THEY decide?

This blog doesn’t even scratch the surface of this story – what about the fact that these were students (minors), some of whom may have been pictured while undressing or naked or sleeping….

The mind boggles at what on earth the school was thinking of when the software was installed, and the laptops given to students without their knowledge of the software.

Did anyone put their hand up at that meeting to decide and say “Er, aren’t we going to tell the students and parents?”. 

Safeguarding, anyone?

by Elaine


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