School allegedly spied student at home via webcam

Some very disturbing news has surfaced regarding an alleged invasion of privacy in a Philadelphia suburb.

An underage student of one of the high schools in the Lower Merion School District was disciplined for “improper behavior in his home”, and the evidence for such an action was given by a photo taken with the webcam of his school-issued laptop.

According to BoingBoing, the parents of the student, and other parents whose children have received the laptops from the school, have joined their forces and raised a civil class action in which they accuse the school district of – among other things – interception of electronic communications, violation of civil rights and invasion of privacy.

The students and their parents were, of course, unaware that the school was using the laptops to monitor students at home, and are properly horrified at the idea that they could be used to watch private goings-on such as dressing or private family discussions.

The Superintendent of the Lower Merion School District has addressed the public on the organization’s website yesterday and said that the feature has been deactivated, while explaining that it was intended for use in case of a laptop being stolen or lost. “The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever,” he writes.

If the allegations prove to be true, this will be just one more example where the public is being lied to just to create an illusion of security and privacy. When caught in the act, it’s always the same reaction – “Upsss! We apologise. We did it to protect you and your children”. Some commotion ensues, some money is exchanged as reparation, some people get their wrists slapped and maybe a suspension, and it’s all back to normal. The problem is that that kind of status quo shouldn’t be normal.

If the picture is found to have been taken while the student was at home, and the laptop wasn’t reported stolen, missing or lost, I would like to see the persons involved in this being hit with criminal charges such as attempt to acquire child pornography.

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