Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

School Spying Students At-Home Via Computer?

CJW, February 21, 2010 5:18 PM


  From the legal perspective, click here.

By S.M.

An Example Of Big Brother At Home
Or Much Ado About Nothing?

CBS & CNN Report. FBI Is On The Case.
See (2) Short Videos Below.

Premise is as follows:

  • A school in Pennsylvania gave students laptops.
  • School could watch students at home via camera which is embedded in all laptops given to students.  (Most/many laptops have this feature to allow video - ie. Skype, video-making)
  • A family claimed school spied on their son at home without cause by using the webcam as a "peeping Tom technology" and is suing the school.   Concerns were brought up whether schools could watch/monitor kids under any circumstance;  who has access to monitoring; plus the extreme ramifications of being taped in compromising situations such as getting dressed.  Some accounts claimed this boy was caught selling drugs.
  • School countered by saying they only utilize the webcam monitoring in the laptop when there is theft of a laptop, according to account, and feature has been disabled.
  • FBI is investigating.

Whether this is another "balloon boy" hoax, as suggested by one parent, is yet to be seen, but it again brings up the importance of our collective diligence about the issue of privacy.  Admittedly, the whole concept of the webcam that is embedded in our laptops that could be used as a "peeping Tom" unknowingly is very creepy and chilling.  The Daily Riff has been covering this topic, such as here and here

On the other hand, stories of this nature will increase, many for pure sensationalist and/or "five minutes of fame" reasons. By recognizing our responsibility with technology and by being better informed, we will also dispel sweeping negative generalizations and over-simplifications connected with technology's use.

What do you think?   
Who knew a school-provided laptop could monitor students at home?

Link article in the Philadelphia Inquirer here.
Link here to CBS story.  Link to the CNN story here with the lawyer point-of-view (in the first half of video).
Both short videos are seen below - CBS first and CNN second:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

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If you see two children, one of whom is clean and the other is dirty, you tend to suppose that the clean one's parents have a larger income than the parent of the dirty one. Consequently snobs try to keep their children very clean. This is an abominable tyranny which interferes with the children doing a great many of the things they had better be doing.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1903), British philosopher, mathematician, historian, As Quoted In "The Teacher and the Taught" (1963)

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