School district admits installing covert webcam activation software on student laptops, denies wrongdoing

The Superintendant of the Lower Merion School District — where parents have initiated a class action suit over the covert use of students' laptops to surveil them in school and at home — has sent a letter to parents with more information about the spying. The school admits that there was spyware installed on students laptops that allowed for remote, covert activation of their webcams, but maintains that the measure was only to be used in the event of theft of the machine (some had speculated that the school was only able to surveil students' hard drives, and that the images of a student engaged in "misconduct" in his home that a vice-principal confronted the student with had been taken by the student, intentionally, and stored on the laptop's hard-drive, from which it was retrieved by the school administration — this now seems not to have been the case). The school also claims that the system can only capture still images, not audio or video. They have disabled the system for now and deny that it was misused.

As a result of our preliminary review of security procedures today, I directed the following actions:
· Immediate disabling of the security-tracking program.
· A thorough review of the existing policies for student laptop use.
· A review of security procedures to help safeguard the protection of privacy; including a review of the instances in which the security software was activated. We want to ensure that any affected students and families are made aware of the outcome of laptop recovery investigations.
· A review of any other technology areas in which the intersection of privacy and security may come into play.

School Sued For Spying On Students With Laptop Cameras Says It Was A Security Feature, Turns It Off

(Thanks, Dan!)

(Image: IMG_6395, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike image from bionicteaching's photostream)