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School Shows Off Webcam Controlling Ability

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 7 comments

Big teacher is watching you.

One of the stranger bits of news that we've been tracking lately has dealt with the LowerMerion School District and its use of monitoring software in the Apple MacBooks that it has distributed to 2,300 of its students.

Student Blake J. Robbins is suing Lower Merion School District in Philadelphia allegedly remotely activating his webcam. The remote activation of his webcam was exposed when student Blake J. Robbins was disciplined for "improper behavior in his home" by the Vice Principal, who provided a photo taken by the webcam as evidence.

The school confirmed that it has the ability to control the webcams, but that the capability has since been disabled in response to the recent issue.

It seems that the Lower Merion schools aren't the only one with the spying capabilities that were apparently used in the current class action lawsuit. A reader of Boing Boing pointed out that PBS aired a documentary a few weeks ago called "Digital Nation." In it, vice-principle of Intermediate School 339, Bronx, NY, Dan Ackerman showed how he's able to remotely monitor students through webcam.

Ackerman demonstrates the webcam spying ability: "They don't even realize we are watching," "I always like to mess with them and take a picture," and "9 times out of 10, THEY DUCK OUT OF THE WAY."

Oddly there are no questions regarding student privacy, which is likely how the recent class action lawsuit came about.

Click here to watch the video at PBS. Skip to around 4:36 to see the remote webcam monitoring.

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  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , 27 February 2010 04:50
    that's absolutely disgusting. what if that student was bashing one out when the teacher turned on the remote welcome. The thought of being monitored in my own home makes me feel sick. I hope to keep sues the hell out of the school.
  • 3 Hide
    Lewis57 , 27 February 2010 05:27
    This is totally absurd. Words can't even describe how big of an invasion of privacy this is. And what makes it worse is the admins making fun out of it, spying on them, messing with them. This is disgusting and needs to be stopped, and I'd like to see whoevers activating the cameras arrested or fined for it.

    If my kid ever recieved a laptop off the school, first thing I would do is tape up the camera.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , 27 February 2010 05:30
    this is just sick..
    even for the sake of 'safety', things like these should never happen!
    what is wrong with the people who initiated this? pure criminal behaviour, lock these people up for the sake of humanity... if there is any left in this ever sickening world.
  • -1 Hide
    Bonello , 27 February 2010 16:30
    Here they aren't actually activating the cameras, they are just observing students' screens and the ones with Photo Booth open can be seen. The observer would have to open Photo Booth to see the child and therefore alert them. It's still completely awful however.
  • 1 Hide
    wifiwolf , 27 February 2010 21:15
    Lesson: you receive a computer from school or anyone, make sure you format or someone you trust do it.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 28 February 2010 16:31
    I work in schools in the UK, i make it policy to make sure that they _know_ everything they do in school is monitored. We dont issue laptops to children at the moment due to esafety issues but in school i am given the permission to do whatever is required to monitor the kids and keep them safe, if that means monitoring them then so be it. I do it but only with PERMISSION from 1. the child and 2. the parent. unless that permission is given i cannot do anything, and 9 times out of 10 the parent will want to make sure the child is working. What isnt mentioned here is that if they signed some kind of AUP, which im betting they did and they will have agreed to being monitored.
  • 0 Hide
    Clintonio , 28 February 2010 18:52
    BluetoothhI work in schools in the UK, i make it policy to make sure that they _know_ everything they do in school is monitored. We dont issue laptops to children at the moment due to esafety issues but in school i am given the permission to do whatever is required to monitor the kids and keep them safe, if that means monitoring them then so be it. I do it but only with PERMISSION from 1. the child and 2. the parent. unless that permission is given i cannot do anything, and 9 times out of 10 the parent will want to make sure the child is working. What isnt mentioned here is that if they signed some kind of AUP, which im betting they did and they will have agreed to being monitored.


    As long as the monitoring is only done in school, it's no problem. I always thought those anti-burglary sensors were cameras anyway... (UK Citizen here)