Waiting for a book at the public library yesterday I overheard a conversation between a couple of IT guys who were setting up a projector. The topic was the school outside of Philadelphia accused of spying on its students through the webcam on computers students can take home.
According to school personnel, some of the school computers had a tendency to wander off and get lost. Activating the webcam enabled school personnel to see who had them.
“Maybe it wasn’t IT, “ said the other. “But still, didn’t anyone say, “Whoa! Are you crazy? What about privacy? The FBI will be all over us! Not to mention the ACLU.”
Well, apparently nobody raised those issues. According to the New York Times, the FBI will look into whether the Lower Merion School District violated any federal wiretap or computer-intrusion laws. A lawsuit has been filed by a student and his parents as a result of an alleged comment by a vice principal suggesting that the student was involved in “improper behavior in his home.” Whether he was or wasn’t, our purview doesn’t extend into a student’s home except as a mandated reporter.
The lack of judgment on the part of school officials regarding students’ privacy is, to say the least, surprising. As someone who wasn’t completely comfortable even putting cameras on school buses, mounted in full view with everybody’s knowledge, I can’t figure it out. A district affluent enough to provide every high school student with an Apple laptop ought to be able to hire someone to keep track of each one of them legitimately.