The story of the Lower Merion School District’s surreptitiously using webcams to spy on students has made a big ripple in the Tech-o-Sphere.
The school district issued Macs to all high school students and failed to disclose that it could remotely activate the webcams over the internet. It got caught and has claimed that it has used the power only when a laptop was reported stolen. Some parents question that.
For anyone interested in following the story, the Philadelphia Inquirer has a detailed analysis of events to date. Lower Merion is within seven miles of Center City (that’s Philly speak for “downtown”) Philadelphia and is one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in Pennsylvania. Heck, most school districts would love to be able to assign netbooks to all their students, and Lower Merion is assigning Macs.
One revealing passage quotes a school district IS guy:
Network technician Michael Perbix, in computer forums and in a Webcast, would recount how he could hunt down and monitor the laptops without anyone knowing.
“If you’re controlling someone’s machine,” he said, “you don’t want them to know what you’re doing.”
It seems to me that that pretty much sums up why many persons find the school district’s actions troubling.
Full Disclosure: I used to live in Lower Merion about a mile from the high school.