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You know, I was kind of hoping my first “regular” blog post would be about something funny. It’s not.

Take a gander at the article below, it describes how the Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa. generously  issued 1800 laptop computers to students, then used the built in web cams to spy on them. Take a look, I’ll wait here.

Read this (opens in a new window – google the name of the school + laptop if you want even more info)

Ticked off? I am. I’m hoping that something will bubble up over the next few days and we’ll discover that the allegations are false. Although I’ve read several articles on this, and I think we need to expect the worst.

See, for me this hits close to home. My daughter is starting high school next year, and while they aren’t issuing laptops (at least not yet), I now shudder to think what could happen if they did.

Frankly, I’m not sure what I’m more irritated about – the fact that they used the webcams to spy, or the fact that they were actually arrogant enough to contact parents / students about apparent “inappropriate behavior”. You’d think SOMEONE at that school would have thought, “Gee this just doesn’t seem right, I wonder if we’re crossing a line”.

Instead, the “We know what’s best for you” side took over. And hey, if we happen to catch that cute 16 year old or her hot mom getting dressed, well, oops. You gotta wonder (and be sickened) by what must have been going on in the backroom of the IT department under the guise of either “monitoring our equipment” or perhaps “what best for our students”.

Just think, give the kids laptops and you can take a snapshot of the room where the laptop is turned on at any time. The fact that it was probably a minor’s bedroom (and a felony) didn’t seem to matter much to them.

In addition, what if it was left in another room, say of a non student? If I were a parent, I’d be seriously worried about the laptop that was sitting on the dresser when I got out of the shower. Hmm… Was that turned on? Can’t recall…

Frankly, the whole thing is criminal and those that perpetrated it should prosecuted. Period. I guess there was some wavier they signed that indicated that the school could remotely monitor the computer in the event of theft, but it was not disclosed that they would use the webcam for this purpose. (Which is kind of stupid anyway – how does taking a snapshot of a strange room in a strange house help you locate the computer? Were they hoping to get a picture of some mail sitting near the computer and get the address of that? These are educators?)

Besides, it’s all BS anyway when you consider the laptop of the  student confronted for his “inappropriate behavior” wasn’t stolen or reported as such, so why was the school “monitoring” it in the first place? Some form of misguided, voyeuristic self-righteousness?

In my opinion, (and that of anyone with an ounce of common sense) activating a webcam remotely goes WAY over the line.  I’m sure if the school would have said they could use the webcam to spy on anyone in front of the computer, there would have been around 1800 laptops sitting in the school warehouse.

In the end, I guess if you accept a laptop from a school you should read the fine print (that in this case wouldn’t have helped anyway) and then come straight up and ask them if they are going to spy on you with it.

And seriously think about investing in a roll of black tape for the webcam before firing it up.

EDIT: Turns out they thought he was selling drugs – Mike And Ike Candy looks like pills apparently…

Also, I think I have the time fixed, sorry about that

~Steve

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28 Responses to “That’s WAY Out Of Line”

  1. Lobster says:

    since I am in South Jersey, this is all over the local news. supposedly”the child in question was in trouble for “alleged drug sale” according to the news, some of the kids had noticed the camera light flipping on by itself, most said they either shut down the l;aptop a few said they covered the lens, but I agree with this blog, why if it is used for securoty are they looking at what the children are doing? the school has stopped using the program. the family has filed a civil suit and now the FBI is looking into wiretapping charges….I dont think this one is going to end quietly

  2. Dawn says:

    The idea of schools giving laptops to their pupils and then spying on them and notifying parents about their behaviour is not only illegal it’s downright creepy ! Isn’t this what pedophiles do? I read a novel recently where this type of thing went on and it led to all kinds of criminal behaviour; OK, that was fiction but I could see how easily it could happen in real life. Nasty.

  3. Susan says:

    Well, I find those who judge must, first, look to themselves. I opened up this blog and while I agree, I find a Google ad with quasi-revealing women wanting to ‘flirt’. I resent any type of physical display of women and children pornographic. It is peoples’ choice, but, wait, I do not want to see it. What can you do to help me? I do not want to lose your good opinions.

  4. Douglas Chantler says:

    Good job,I’ve been following this in the news, and they have the FBI looking into it now. Hopefully someone will be held accountable.

  5. Mona Helmer says:

    First off I agree with what Susan said about the google adds on here. I would love to read your blogs, but do we have to see single ads and such, if I want them, of which I do not I will go to that sort of site. Ok that out of the way, OH MY GOSH, would have liked to use a different expletive word or two ,but…, what is happening to our world, decent morals, and gee would not a school be accountable for that??? How much time does a child spend there. and hmmmm I wonder why as you said were they monitoring that child and how many others and what were they seeing in the Privacy of that child’s home????? What exactly was the reason for all the laptops, who came up with the idea and who is monitoring and what is their background ??? Makes me sick and very concerned as to who else could possibly have a way of monitoring them??? People wake up, smell the coffee, if it ain’t smelling right, then it Ain’t!!! Yes I know, grammar is off, meant to make a point, sorry. Common sense, think outside of the box and you may be surprised by what it is and not what it seems it is!!!!

  6. Sandy says:

    Oh, please, nothing is free,…remember the saying if it sounds too good to be true it probably is,…these were high school students who are way more computer savy than most adults,….they should know better than to leave their computers on all the time,…come on people these are High school students…..

    • Marica says:

      Still doesn’t excuse the school for this kind of thing. If I wanna pick my nose I sure don’t want to have shut down my computer.

  7. Peggy B. says:

    Hi Steve…I was totally shocked when reading this about the Laptops. More over….I got sick to my stomach. What is happening to our world anymore. Where is the safety first for our kids, grandkids? Where have everyones morals gone? What happens in the home is private. I can’t believe this School was permitted to do this. What does this School think its going to accomplish spying on these kids and whats going on at home? Its really sad….when some unwitted person takes things this far and I would say…..this is child porn. I can’t think of anything else…but….child porn. There are Laws to protect our kids of this. I hope every last person involved in this pays dearly….this is not right..

  8. Karen says:

    This is outrageous!! Not surprising though.In case you haven’t noticed,more and more of our freedoms are being taken from us on a daily basis.I will be interested in the findings of the court on this.I hope the case won’t set a precedent.We may all have to shut down our PCs in the future for the sake of privacy.And please don’t tell me I am overstating.I have watched for over 60 years and know exactly what I am saying.

  9. Chuck says:

    I am not a big fan of the ACLU but we need them in this case and in case the ACLU can’t handle it the parents should file a class action suit against the school district. This action by the Lower Merion Schooll District is outragous and should be sued for everything they have and more. There action reminds me of a book I read way back when, called “1984.” I think it is time for all to read it. There is an old saying “Big Brother is watching you” well it has staarted with “Lower Merion School District is watching you.” Sounds to me like this school District has a problem of Adult Perverts.

  10. William King says:

    Wowsers…. My clock is way off….. I’m in USA Mountain time and it is 11:54 right NOW…. And these comments are showing 6:00 PM plus time… Even on the East coast, it isn’t that late…. Whatever… I totally agree with everything that has been said… EXCEPT… The Administrators of the School ???? need to be questioned as to their morals!!!! You want my child to WHAT??? — Thanks!!!!

  11. I think that this is absolutely repugnant for them to do this & to actually think thay can get away with it. I hope that all 1800 students & families get together & make it a Class Action Lawsuit. Where was Congress on this?

  12. Gay says:

    I agree with you all. This is ridiculous. We wondered what would be next. A little while back they said cameras are in the dressing rooms at stores to see if people were putting on clothes and walking away with them. I am leery about changing at the stores. Then there are ads on the tv. where the Government will give you a free phone and service. I looked it up on the internet and they have to set up some kind of equipment in your house. For what? Now an ad about a free cell phone and minutes. For people on welfare and SS etc. What are the hoping to accomplish? I didn’t like it when they set up the thing where they could listen in on your phone calls. What will be next?

  13. john hampton says:

    hey steve,

    aren’t these people that gave out the “apples” supposed to be tthe educated ones…with degrees and all that crap (letters) behind their
    names to show how educated they are supposesd to be…well let me tell you this…if this was one of my daughters and i found out the
    school or anyone had been spying…i’d do tthe same as i had done to all the boys that came to our house to meet dad before a date…
    i’d interagate them and then hang them by…okay you get the picture…you know dad’s do care about daughters…but where do they…
    i still don’t get it…where do they get off trying too pull this crap and then first they(school) claimed that the student in question was
    smoking pot…well that didn’t pan out too good…so they changed their story real fast to…”we saw him taking pills”…turns out that the
    “so called pills” were nothing more then Mike and Ike’s…you know…licorce candies…the kid loves them…but this still doesn’t answer
    the question as to…where they can spy on anyone that really want to…not for the “stolen pcs”…like they claimed was the reason
    for the program to begin with…these are our educators and their principles don’t seem to stand too high in my book…sounds more like
    “bush and Cheney in action” again…lol !!! rip the schools and the district and whoever installed the pprograms and the ones who remotely
    opened the cameras a “new one”…i agree…all paper work should of disclosed this to parents and kids…this time the district stepped
    in it and has dragged it all over the school and community and who knows where else…thanks for letting me let off steam…yeah i’m “po’d”

  14. Eric says:

    Thanks, Steve, for bringing this up. The school undoubtedly did NOT get adequate legal advice on this prior to their invasion of privacy. Your blog didn’t mention just what “inappropriate” behaviour the student was caught doing, but that might shed some more light on the school’s motivation for such action. If it were in response to attempted hacking into the school system’s computers to change grades or get copies of tests I could understand it, but only after getting a wiretap warrant from a judge. Caught smoking pot or dressing in drag, maybe just reading comic books or (God forbid) the Constitution? There are already many laws regulating domestic surveilance which were undoubtedly broken,
    quite aside from the possibility of watching kids or adults unaware in the assumed privacy of their own homes.
    I hope the motion for a class action suit is approved and the school system held liable. Unfortunately, they’d just pay the fines from monies that should go toward the kids’ education or activities. I’d like to see jail time for those who approved the program. Let them see how it feels to be observed 24/7. At least they’d know they were under observation in jail, unlike the 1800 unsuspecting kids.

  15. Mike says:

    It seems that a lot of questions need to be answered. Like Under of circumstanses were the laptops issued? Was there and singed
    documentation stateing by who and why these were issued? Was there anything in this documentation (if any) that said that the
    camera could be (or would be)activated? Did the parents think about this even being a possibility of happening?
    Don’t take anything for granted folks. If it seems to good to be true (or safe)…there’s a good chance it’s not! This may ring
    to be true with people which may seem to have your best interest in mind. Be cautious. It’s cheap insurance.

  16. Doniphan says:

    Hi Steve.
    Many excellent and appropriate responses. In addition, I’m concerned about the schools handing out Laptops!
    When I was in school I had to buy my own Sliderule. Later on came a class with a room full of Adding Machines.
    Nobody took them home. And now teachers are having to purchase paper and pencils for their students due to lack of funding.
    Who is funding the purchase of Laptops to-go?
    Anyway, if the premis I heard is correct (which it’s not), they could have installed a GPS in the Laptop if they wanted to track down a missing one. Just a thought.
    By the way, it’s noon here in California.

  17. Stewart says:

    What’s there to be surprised about? Has everyone been living under a rock for the past 20/30 years? Think! This is not something that’s unheard of or fresh out of the box. This is just one more instance in a long overlooked problem that’s plagued this country since the end of the American Revolution. We won only a small and temporary victory. Freedom and privacy have slowly been losing ground ever since. Only recently since the introduction of the so-called Patriot Act has the realization and magnitude of the problem begun to surface in all it’s ugly grandeur. Think that’s outrageous? Then you have not been paying attention to what your dear ole uncle Sam has been doing to you citizen. Or should I say servant? Either way, one thing we can all count on, leave it up to “big brother” and this will certainly be just part of the everyday norm for all of us. Forget about the Constitution or the Bill of Rites. It’s just ink on paper and not worth much more than that. Nothing holds sway over the new world order and the present day government agenda. And if you think being spied on is terrible, wait to you see what else is in store for all us just around the corner. So keep voting your favorite movie star or entertainer into political office. Keep placing your future into the hands of those that look and/or sound good. Keep voting for the old criminal Democratic and Republican party that time past and present has exposed to the truth and identifies as the real mafia. Keep thinking if you leave it up to others the problem will be solved while you continue to pay taxes to live and taxes to die. Yes, the idea that any trusted entity such as a public or private school would resort to such low and disgusting tactic as to spy on it’s students/others certainly warrant’s justice in full measure provided by law, but let’s not forget during the process that this barely scratches the surface and unless we as a people of one nation re-learn to pool our resolve to reclaim our “hard fought for” inevitable (quickly dwindling away) rites as citizens of a TRUE Democracy run By the people For the people and not puppets of our own governments rule we will continue to see this sort of perverted happenstance regularly. Wake up! Your lives are being planned and when you see what’s in those plans you’ll wonder what happened to all the milk and honey. There’s a right time to be angry. Especially when the cause serves a greater good. Now is that time. And that time is getting shorter everyday. I agree 100% with you Steve. I was sorely tempted to use a few choice words on the spy subject also.

  18. Kicknbak says:

    Hi Steve, This goes a lot deeper than just wrong ideals of a school system, or the misdirection of people that allow something inappropriate to happen. This goes directly to what has happened to the core of this country. The real blame can go back to the parents and the parents parents. It can go to the school systems, and even to our government, past and present. It is only a minor part of the “modern way” that so many seem to embrace these days, much of it falling back to what they were allowed to be taught in schools.
    In the big picture, our government has softened the stand of right from wrong by the very nature of being “politically correct”. Our school systems are now teaching anti-war, go green, ‘One World System’ and so many other do-gooder ways of life that we are now breeding a hoard of ‘followers’ and not many leaders, at least not good ones with proper ideals. It’s apparent by whats holding control in our once thought respectable offices these days. Money talks today, good or bad.

    There are no ‘real’ punishments being handed out these days, for extreme crimes. In fact many of the perpetrators are being rewarded as seen recently by the bailout movement. The trend is to go ahead and do it, right or wrong, and then face the minor consequences if it does turn out questionable. Did I mention adherent “Fascist”? ie Liberalistic trends.
    Many things going on out there are no different than how Hitler took control of the German government and people, and bred Nazi-ism. It turns out that the people doing these things are not even thinking right or wrong… they are usually such narcissists, egoists that the meek or week willed just follow along without questioning because the leader holds position or respect of some sort, and certainly he must know what he’s doing… right? You can see this happening everywhere you look these days, the media itself is full of it. It’s now “Do before you think.” Some of you may even be able to thank yourselves. Insight seems to come with years, but the listeners are long gone. Respect for the previous generation is bred out, or taught out of our children. Pay heed, you are going to be here one day too.
    Ooops, sorry, my soapbox is teetering wildly this afternoon, maybe unevenly laden. Hold tight, we’re in for a wild ride. ;-)

  19. radioman says:

    The kids should be disabling them right now in whatever software runs the cams, like Flashplayer in Settings Manager.

  20. Cynthia says:

    Well I was going to start on a rant here. BUT I see everything I was going to say has basically already been said by “Stewart says:
    February 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm”……so I’ll just say “AMEN TO THAT” & go nite nite!!

  21. Rea says:

    Hi Steve: Sorry, but I don’t have a problem with being spied on. You see, I have NOTHING to hide. They can tap my phone or anything else they want. I don’t lie, cheat, steal, or do anything I am afraid someone will know about. Kids today are NOT the kids of yesterday. I know that for a fact! They need all the controls they can get from just about everyone. Why do we have controls on OUR OWN computers to control the things OUR OWN kids watch. Seems to me, there is a double standard here. We want controls, but ONLY if they agree with OUR agenda. Our society needs even more controls, including our kids. For example: Look at the stupid use of cell phones while driving. Enough said!

    • Marica says:

      Rea, I DO have aproblem being spied upon, and I don’t lie, steal, and etc. If a grand child shoud bring a computer with web cam enabled by remote, into my home and uses it, then those looking into my home are univited persons. I have nothing to hide, but my front door isn’t open to anyone who decides to just walk in. I mean really, think about, what your reaction be if all of WorldStart bloggers were snooping around in your home via remote web cam, or what if we all showed up on your door step and just walked in and started browsing around.

  22. I have to agree with most of you, not only is this creepy but it violates a slew of different rights. If the school district wanted to monitor what the children were doing online they could have loaded the software to stop them from accessing certain sites, but to have a webcam that monitors what they do in their own home is a privacy violation. Since the parents were never told of this use their privacy was also violated – because I’m certain not all those 1800 computers were in a room occupied by only one student – it could be in the kitchen, family room, basement or even in the parent’s room. The motives behind this type of spying were self-serving to someone in the school administration – an not only is voyerism, but could even be classified as pedophilia. Even if they suspected this young man of selling drugs (which would not be limited to selling from his room) there are other ways to bust him – and that does not account for the cameras being activated in the other students rooms. Do they think all 1800 students are selling drugs or doing something illegal? These are teenagers we are talking about, and they do all kinds of things (usually in the privacy of their rooms) that are not for public observation. Throw the book at these jerks – and make them pay some stiff penalties.

  23. Mona says:

    I think that the Pa school and all involved should be so held accountable!!!! For once people stand together and say Enough, this stops here!!! What have we become?? A school, doing this. It is a horrid offense to be done by anyone, but by a school ???!!!! I say parents ,stand together and hold them responsible, please!!!

  24. Evelyn says:

    This is all over the news in SD also. It might be high school students, Sandy, but that doesn’t mean they are not use to leaving their computers on all day and night. This is the generation of “never turning anything off” age. My opinion of this was like a hard core Peeping Tom. ND home school provides computers for the students but they also tell them if they do not turn them off after class they will be exposing their family to being observed all the time. Why wasn’t this explained to the students that took them home that it would be best to turn them off when not in use. Don’t give high school students too much credit for being anything but teens.

  25. Mike A. says:

    Geez Rea! How would you like it if you just got out of the shower and somebody whips open your bathroom window and says GOTYA. This would be about the same as having the laptop camera on.

    • Evelyn says:

      ROFLOL Good point Mike. Still laughing. I can just imagine me screaming the laptop screaming and both of us having a heart attack. Thanks for making me giggle…you just made my day. :-)

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