The Lower Merion district school board's explanation why they turned on webcams on school supplied laptops for student use while a good reason (they were stolen so let's see if school IT techs can find them in use), is the dumbest thing I have ever heard of. IT administrators and the school's principal clearly didn't take civics 101. Here are some tips for the board to go over:
- If something is lost or stolen, check with the student, make sure that a written report within school records is completed and signed by student.
- Call police - file report of stolen laptop.
- Explain to police what the laptops are capable of doing - including remote access web cams application and wait for it - let the police manage the investigation and operation of the webcam.
- Never take the law into your own hands, especially if you lack the awareness of what you're doing and clearly, they didn't...
Had the school followed this simple and basic set of steps, none of this would be front page news right now. Instead, you have the FBI breathing down your neck, your board is already financially broke and will now have to pay legal defense cost of your IT department, and presto, its school spy gate and somebody is going to get fired or at least, they should. I suspect that the FBI will give the IT department and entire School Board an exam on what they can and can't do and not charge any of them. Of course if they find some serious abuse going on elsewhere within the school board, look out, DOJ will be a knockin' on the door next.
Lost in the shuffle, school supplied computers such as laptops may have to be discontinued, all because approximately 40 students didn't take care of the equipment in the first place. Too bad, if applied appropriately, computer technology is a great tool to better one's education. Oh and disable monitoring software via webcam, there are PLENTY of different software applications available that can "call 'home' without requiring a camera.
The faculty deserves an F for failure to respect Federal Privacy and Wire tapping laws.