Privacy, supplied laptops and webcams

This is a worrying story, the short version is the school provided laptops for their students and installed various security / monitoring software.  Some of which I consider to be reasonable, though if you provide a laptop to a teen male and expect them not to go hunting on the net for stuff they shouldn’t be looking at then you’re in for a rough ride and providing that the monitoring of usage is clearly and loudly stated before the laptop is accepted with reminders on login then it’s clear and apparent that activity on the machine is not secure and not private.

Educating the students (minors one and all) on how to protect their privacy would be a good thing here, I wouldn’t necessarily trust my bank / utility / social networking passwords to a machine I consider to be little better than a keylogger but providing the information is in the open then the ground rules for the freely provided machine are understood.

However they appear to have put software on to enable the remote use of the webcam (and possibly the mic), it appears that they have been performing some proactive monitoring of the students.  Which has lead to one student being hauled up in front of the principle for “improper behaviour”.

So let’s summarise what is in the reports at the moment

  • Laptops provided free (or at low cost)
  • Laptops have traffic monitoring
  • Laptops have webcam monitoring (doesn’t appear that this was advertised to the students)
  • No reports from the school that the improper behaviour was related to the use of the laptop
  • “Proactive” monitoring using the webcams
  • Private activity in a private house is punished (no hint that the behaviour was illegal) at school

So in short, what the flying fuck were they thinking.  This is so close to 1984’s telescreens that we should all be worried, that there are people out there who think this is “right” or “normal” is terrifying.  Even if the activity was illegal this does not legitimise the monitoring of private individuals within their homes, if this stands does anyone seriously think it’ll end there.

Get the kids used to the monitoring, they’ll accept it as adults and accept it for their kids.

Remember, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

If someone gives you a “free” laptop, make sure you cover the webcam with black tape.

3 thoughts on “Privacy, supplied laptops and webcams”

  1. This school district is literally across the river from me. When we first read the story in the local paper (before it got HUGE) my boyfriend and I both sighed, shook our heads and went, “Yep, that was stupid.”

    The school district is in for a loooot of trouble (and lawyer fees!)

    1. “The school district is in for a loooot of trouble”, I’m hoping so. The message needs to come out loud and clear that this is several steps too far, and to highlight to all those teens who think nothing of the technology what the risks are.

      I’m wondering how many teens today are going to get bitten hard by something they put online without thinking years earlier when they’re job hunting. I’ve had a practice for years to keep “me”, “me online” and “me at work” as separate entities as far as possible.

  2. My thought was that the computers were supplied to people under age. Who would use the computers in their bedrooms. The reason why I thought this was connected to the whole “improper hebaviour” that was not, so far as we know, criminal…

    Which brings in a whole world of nastiness about who would access the footage and why. I know why.

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