Public School Spycams Either A Glitch Or A Security Feature

The Pennsylvania school district accused of using school-issued laptops to spy on their students insists that their ability to activate the computers’ webcams from anywhere is a security feature. Oh, but school employees told students earlier that the lights next to their webcams were coming on now and then due to a “glitch.”

In an email sent to school district families and reprinted by Gizmodo, the district superintendent explained:

Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off school property. District laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. The security feature, which was disabled today, was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student.

Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the District’s security and technology departments. The security feature’s capabilities were limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator’s screen. This feature was only used for the narrow purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District never activated the security feature for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever.

Which is pretty funny, because students in that school also contacted Gizmodo earlier this week, saying that students who sought tech support after the green light next to their MacBooks’ webcams seemed to randomly turn on were told that it was a glitch.

So the webcam activation feature is a security feature, only activated when a laptop is reported stolen. We can get behind that. Except that it was seemingly randomly activated on non-stolen laptops for reasons not yet disclosed. Okay then.

Suit: School-issued laptops used to spy on kids on Main Line [Philadelphia Inquirer] (Thanks, Eric and GitEmSteveDave!)
Laptop-Spying School District Superintendent Covers Ass By Claiming Security Feature [Gizmodo]
Update: Students Knew “MacBook Cameras Turned On Randomly” as School Administrators Gave Technical Excuses [Gizmodo]

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