PDA

View Full Version : School Spies on Students with Webcam



publius
2010-Feb-18, 09:10 PM
Get this:

http://www.boingboing.net/2010/02/17/school-used-student.html

A school district in a Philadelphia suburb issued its students laptops. Those laptops were equipped with webcams which could be remotely activated by school officials. They apparently used that capability on students *at home*, and *disciplined* a student based on what they saw via the webcam.

The text of lawsuit itself, which is apparently going class action, is here:

http://craphound.com/robbins17.pdf

I want to know just how this works. Do they have some local wireless internet connection, and the laptops are running software that can be remote controlled? I'm not up on this webcam crap at all.

-Richard

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-18, 09:17 PM
If eg. they have homework assignments (which I assume would be the reason for having the laptops in the first place) done as Flash programs fetched online, Flash can activate the cam and return the live feed.

Or, they can have a resident application that just sends the feed whenever online.

I am incidentally rather outraged at the school's stupidity but doubt it'll be the last time something like that happens.

Fazor
2010-Feb-18, 09:35 PM
Yeah. That's got to be one of the most irresponsible things the school could have done. :sigh: Sometimes people really disappoint me with the sheer depth of their stupidity. I mean, I know I can be as dumb as the best of them. But I can't possibly imagine how someone could say, "Hey, lets secretly remotely spy on kids in their homes!" and have others agree that it's a good idea! Ugh.

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-18, 09:48 PM
This gives "school girls caught on camera" a whole new meaning. :naughty:

publius
2010-Feb-18, 09:49 PM
This is criminal. Some of these characters could (and should, if true) go to jail. Count 66 in that lawsuit alleges the school has captured images of minors and their friends and families in various stages of undress.

I hope they seize all of the hard drives quickly before someone can start deleting stuff. If some idiot has images of a student nude, that idiot is toast. Hello, sex offender status, and rightly so.


-Richard

Swift
2010-Feb-18, 09:52 PM
I want to know just how this works. Do they have some local wireless internet connection, and the laptops are running software that can be remote controlled? I'm not up on this webcam crap at all.

I don't know a lot more than you, but what I understand is there needs to be some sort of software running on the laptop, which was probably installed before they were distributed. The laptop would have to be connected to the internet, but it could be by any means (wire, wireless, dial-up). The person who installed the software would be able to remotely access it when they liked. I understand that hackers have used similar sytems, using worms and such, and that once they do, they could target any device connected to that computer (webcam or anything else).

Fazor
2010-Feb-18, 09:55 PM
Yeah. I didn't see what "inappropriate action" the student was caught in, or if they had seen any other students in sexual situations, but I'd press forward with full-fledged child pornography charges. Anyone with half a brain would have to have expected a chance to record something like that, which in my books makes it a 100% intentional act.

I tried to look at PA state law, but my gods. I thought Ohio's were poorly written and organized. I have a whole new respect for PA criminal lawyers. But I'd throw anything that might even remotely stick: wire-tap, trespass, voyerism, child pornography, etc. And charge anyone and everyone who knew about the practice of remote viewing these web cams.

. . . barring any undisclosed information about the case, mind you (such as parents being aware of the practice, which certainly doesn't seem to be the case).

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-18, 10:08 PM
If the parents were aware, stick the parent with willfully distributing child pornography charges too.

publius
2010-Feb-18, 10:08 PM
I don't know a lot more than you, but what I understand is there needs to be some sort of software running on the laptop, which was probably installed before they were distributed. The laptop would have to be connected to the internet, but it could be by any means (wire, wireless, dial-up). The person who installed the software would be able to remotely access it when they liked. I understand that hackers have used similar sytems, using worms and such, and that once they do, they could target any device connected to that computer (webcam or anything else).

I'll be very interested in the technical details. Someone I was reading made the point that if these machines were set up as part of a Windows domain, with school servers acting as domain controllers, then they'd could install whatever software they wanted over the network and essentially do whatever they wanted with the machines. If the students (and their parents) were only granted mere user status, they couldn't do squat about it. Just think of some highly controlled corporate computer network style environment.

I've never fooled with domains. Several years ago, I thought about setting up one with my home network just to play and see what all was involved, but after I got to reading, quickly realized it was very complicated and not worth the trouble, even for just "see how it works" fun.

-Richard

Swift
2010-Feb-18, 10:16 PM
I'll be very interested in the technical details. Someone I was reading made the point that if these machines were set up as part of a Windows domain, with school servers acting as domain controllers, then they'd could install whatever software they wanted over the network and essentially do whatever they wanted with the machines. If the students (and their parents) were only granted mere user status, they couldn't do squat about it. Just think of some highly controlled corporate computer network style environment.

I've never fooled with domains. Several years ago, I thought about setting up one with my home network just to play and see what all was involved, but after I got to reading, quickly realized it was very complicated and not worth the trouble, even for just "see how it works" fun.

-Richard
That sounds correct - I believe where I work that is exactly how they have it set up.

But, I also think that even if the laptops were set up as completely independent machines, that the software could have easily been loaded in advance.

Ronald Brak
2010-Feb-18, 11:24 PM
If the parents were aware, stick the parent with willfully distributing child pornography charges too.

"Because your school took photos of you while you were undressing, we are throwing your parents in jail because they signed a form that explained that the latops allowed a two way exchange of images. We trust you will enjoy living with your new foster parents, Mr and Mrs Creepy."

mike alexander
2010-Feb-18, 11:33 PM
Note to everyone: Tape over your webcam when you don't want it running.

closetgeek
2010-Feb-18, 11:46 PM
"Because your school took photos of you while you were undressing, we are throwing your parents in jail because they signed a form that explained that the latops allowed a two way exchange of images. We trust you will enjoy living with your new foster parents, Mr and Mrs Creepy."

I can't say I disagree with HenrikOlsen's position. Willingly allowing an organization to video tape your child, in their bedroom, while not informing you child that you willfully signed away their privacy should be a criminal act. It's clear that they didn't know that because they are the one's filing suit.

Moose
2010-Feb-18, 11:51 PM
The only possible defense for this that I can think of is in loco parentis. As far as I know, in loco parentis does not apply when students are not on the school campus, or transiting to or from home.

This act is unconscionable.

publius
2010-Feb-18, 11:52 PM
More on this:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/84715512.html?submit=Vote&oid=3&mr=1&84722562=Y&cid=8500281&pid=84722562


The school district is responding (media interest in this is going to go astronomical) and says this "remote viewing" capability was an anti-theft feature. If the laptop was reported stolen, they could activate a feature that would snap a picture of whoever was using it and send that photo home, along with the IP address.

They are "committed to protecting our students' privacy", yada yada, and had no knowledge that anyone was using this feature the manner alleged in the lawsuit.

Now, more technical questions. In order to turn this on, it would have to "phone home" in some manner to learn that it had been placed on the "lost or stolen" list.

-Richard

Ronald Brak
2010-Feb-19, 12:21 AM
I can't say I disagree with HenrikOlsen's position. Willingly allowing an organization to video tape your child, in their bedroom, while not informing you child that you willfully signed away their privacy should be a criminal act. It's clear that they didn't know that because they are the one's filing suit.

The parents probably all signed a form saying that the laptops allowed a two way exchange of images. However, in Australia at least, no one, except perhaps Mr and Mrs Creepy, would sign for a laptop that could be used to take photos of their children undressing. I think you can see what I'm getting at here. Just because the parents signed a permission slip allowing their children to go on a picnic at Hanging Rock doesn't mean the parents killed their children.

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-19, 12:22 AM
... school officials ... apparently used that capability on students *at home*, and *disciplined* a student based on what they saw via the webcam. ...

... The school district ... says this "remote viewing" capability was an anti-theft feature ... and had no knowledge that anyone was using this feature the manner alleged in the lawsuit. ...
Putting aside the probable distinction between "school officials" and "the school district," is it just my personal warped sense of logic, or is there an ever so slight contradiction here?

How do you *not* use the cam feature, yet simultaneously discipline a student for what you see while using it?

There has to be more to this.

If some pervert principal was just playing the cyber peeping tom to get his hots, why would he ever come forward and use what he saw to discipline a student? That's absurd, or would, at least, be incredibly stupid.

This would have to be a much broader, semi-official usage of the cam feature, with documentation.

Why do I have a feeling that "the school district" is not going to be able to pass the buck to the "school officials" and come off clean?

publius
2010-Feb-19, 12:33 AM
What the district is doing is trying to spin this as "rogue officials". I'm sure they had a little talk with their lawyers who told them the district would be up the creek without a paddle, and so they're going to try to pin this on rogue employees acting on their own.

From another forum, it turns out the father filing this lawsuit is a lawyer himself, and apparently a well-to-do one (living in a well to do neighboorhood with home values at $1M+). They picked on the wrong one here. This is a guy with the resources who will go after them to the ends of the earth, I'm sure.


-Richard

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-19, 12:40 AM
More on this:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/84715512.html?submit=Vote&oid=3&mr=1&84722562=Y&cid=8500281&pid=84722562


The school district is responding (media interest in this is going to go astronomical) and says this "remote viewing" capability was an anti-theft feature. If the laptop was reported stolen, they could activate a feature that would snap a picture of whoever was using it and send that photo home, along with the IP address.


I haven't looked at all the other material. Is there a clear indication that the school did use it for more than an image after it was reported stolen?

I could see it turning out this way:

Laptop is reported stolen, and the "call back" feature is activated. There is a picture of the school kid using the stolen computer. He is then disciplined for apparently stealing it. Parents respond with privacy lawsuit.

publius
2010-Feb-19, 12:43 AM
If some pervert principal was just playing the cyber peeping tom to get his hots, why would he ever come forward and use what he saw to discipline a student? That's absurd, or would, at least, be incredibly stupid.



I re-read the lawsuit. The principal be female, not male, a Ms. Lindy Matsko. According to the text she believe the kid was enaged in "improper behavior" and used the webcam photo as proof. No mention of what the "improper behavior" of the male teenager in his own home was anywhere (and we probably won't know).

If this was a "rogue employee" (which I doubt), then perhaps the kid was a troublemaker (or she considered him to be) and she got it in for him and decided she was get to him anyway she could. But that would mean she'd have to be familiar with how the "remote viewing" system worked.

-Richard

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-19, 12:48 AM
... it turns out the father filing this lawsuit is a lawyer himself, and apparently a well-to-do one ...
I'm trying to imagine the scene:

[loudspeaker:] "Will Kleindoofy please come to the principal's office?"

in the office

Principal: "Kleindoofy, you were observed being bad, you have a week's detention."

Kleindoofy: "And how do you know this? Who observed it? When did I do it?"

Principal: "You did it in the privacy of your home and we watched you through the cam on your laptop. Like I said, detention for a week, you naughty boy."

Kleindoofy: "Through the cam on my laptop? Wow!" [thinks to himself: "HOLY BEJEEZE, THIS DUDE IS TEH STUPID. AWESOME, LAWSUIT!!!!, $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ - DADDY!!"]

How on Earth could any school official, district or nay, ever think they could use something like that as evidence in disciplining a student? Didn't they realize that it would blow up in their faces?

closetgeek
2010-Feb-19, 12:50 AM
The parents probably all signed a form saying that the laptops allowed a two way exchange of images. However, in Australia at least, no one, except perhaps Mr and Mrs Creepy, would sign for a laptop that could be used to take photos of their children undressing. I think you can see what I'm getting at here. Just because the parents signed a permission slip allowing their children to go on a picnic at Hanging Rock doesn't mean the parents killed their children.

School official/school district does not automatically equate to unquestionable trust, IMHO. If a parent knew the laptops had a feature for two way viewing, the parents should, at the very least, make sure their child is aware, at the most, when the child is not using it for school, put it a box or a laptop bag. Allowing your children to go to a park is not the same as killing your children, no, but I think a closer comparison would be using your children to test the water for sharks. If the parents were aware of the two way viewing feature, they enabled the school to spy on their children.

publius
2010-Feb-19, 12:56 AM
School official/school district does not automatically equate to unquestionable trust, IMHO. If a parent knew the laptops had a feature for two way viewing, the parents should, at the very least, make sure their child is aware, at the most, when the child is not using it for school, put it a box or a laptop bag. Allowing your children to go to a park is not the same as killing your children, no, but I think a closer comparison would be using your children to test the water for sharks. If the parents were aware of the two way viewing feature, they enabled the school to spy on their children.

This question is moot. In the lawsuit, the parents state they had no knowledge of this "feature" and nowhere was it mentioned in the documentation. They are launching this as a class action on behalf of all the students who were given the laptops by the district.

-Richard

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-19, 12:57 AM
I still want to know if the laptop was reported stolen. Is there any information on that?

I can see a lawyer father coming up with something like this if his kid was disciplined for stealing a computer.

tdvance
2010-Feb-19, 12:58 AM
More on this:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/84715512.html?submit=Vote&oid=3&mr=1&84722562=Y&cid=8500281&pid=84722562


The school district is responding (media interest in this is going to go astronomical) and says this "remote viewing" capability was an anti-theft feature. If the laptop was reported stolen, they could activate a feature that would snap a picture of whoever was using it and send that photo home, along with the IP address.

They are "committed to protecting our students' privacy", yada yada, and had no knowledge that anyone was using this feature the manner alleged in the lawsuit.

Now, more technical questions. In order to turn this on, it would have to "phone home" in some manner to learn that it had been placed on the "lost or stolen" list.

-Richard

If that's the case, they need to fire the teacher that did it---or else, that would make the school look complicit.

Someone did something stupid there.

publius
2010-Feb-19, 01:01 AM
I still want to know if the laptop was reported stolen. Is there any information on that?

I can see a lawyer father coming up with something like this if his kid was disciplined for stealing a computer.

Highly unlikely. The school district gave out laptops to all the students. This kid got one. So he was authorized to have it. Now, according to the text of the lawsuit, the assistant principal, this Ms. Matsko, called the student in and accused him of "improper behavior". She then produced a web cam photo as proof of this improper behavior in his home, whatever it may be.


-Richard

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-19, 01:02 AM
@ tdvance

But, it's not just that the student was watched.

They *used* the information in an official way, i.e. discipline.

That's a *HUGE* difference.

That means that the usage was officially sanctioned by the school. At least post factum.

[edit:] crossed posts.

closetgeek
2010-Feb-19, 01:08 AM
The suit, filed Tuesday, says unnamed school officials at Harriton High School in Rosemont remotely activated the webcam on a student's computer last year because the district believed he "was engaged in improper behavior in his home."

An assistant principal at Harriton confronted the student for "improper behavior" on Nov. 11 and cited a photograph taken by the webcam as evidence.

In a statement on its website, the district said that "The laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. This feature has been deactivated effective today."

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/84715512.html?submit=Vote&oid=3&mr=1&84722562=Y&cid=8500281&pid=84722562
*snip

So despite the fact that the computer was not reported stolen, meaning the "security feature" had no reason to be activated, the assistant principal, with her amazing intuition, suspected he was doing something inappropriate? Now if they are tracking Web Sites visited, that is one thing. In my children's school, the kids are made well aware that the Sites they visit are tracked and sign an agreement not to abuse the priviledge. However, if they were tracking, that is proof enough without engaging the security feature.

In all honesty, it feels like a violation issue so I automatically jump on the defensive. They never say what the "improper behavior" was. It's unfair to assume and it is quite possible that the behavior he was engaging in was tampering with the security system. We don't know the full story.

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-19, 01:09 AM
Highly unlikely. The school district gave out laptops to all the students. This kid got one. So he was authorized to have it.
Now, according to the text of the lawsuit, the assistant principal, this Ms. Matsko, called the student in and accused him of "improper behavior". She then produced a web cam photo as proof of this improper behavior in his home, whatever it may be.


-Richard

Thanks for the information. Still, I could imagine reasons why the kid might have reported it stolen - for one thing, he might want to get another laptop.

It will be interesting to see if more information becomes available on this.

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-19, 01:18 AM
... In all honesty, it feels like a violation issue so I automatically jump on the defensive. They never say what the "improper behavior" was. It's unfair to assume and it is quite possible that the behavior he was engaging in was tampering with the security system. We don't know the full story.
It's totally irrelevant what the student was doing. If it was at the student's home, even the FBI would need a court order to tap a phone, hack a computer, do a search, or whatever. To get that court order, they would have to prove probable cause and show some kind of evidence a priori.

The "district" has absolutely no jurisdiction whatsoever in a student's home, at least as far as discipline is concerned.

There are going to be some job openings at the district and the school pretty soon.

Invading the privacy of the home is a big one. The district could be looking at federal charges.

publius
2010-Feb-19, 01:22 AM
Here's the district's official statement:

http://www.lmsd.org/sections/news/default.php?m=0&t=today&p=lmsd_anno&id=1137

According to that, the laptops are Apple machines, not Windows, I see. I know nothing about Macs, save they are expensive.


-Richard

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-19, 01:33 AM
Here's the district's official statement:

http://www.lmsd.org/sections/news/default.php?m=0&t=today&p=lmsd_anno&id=1137

According to that, the laptops are Apple machines, not Windows, I see. I know nothing about Macs, save they are expensive.


-Richard

And, according to that:



Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the District's security and technology departments. The tracking-security feature was limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator's screen. This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever.

This would tend to argue for the idea that this was reported stolen (or lost or missing).

Of course, I would agree that unless there was very careful and verifiable accountability for any use of the webcams, it's a massive privacy issue. I'd expect that any use would have to have multiple signoffs at a very high level, notification of the police, etc. If the capability existed for someone to arbitrarily turn it on, it would be far too much.

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-19, 01:36 AM
... Of course, I would agree that unless there was very careful and verifiable accountability for any use of the webcams, it's a massive privacy issue. I'd expect that any use would have to have multiple signoffs at a very high level, notification of the police, etc. If the capability existed for someone to arbitrarily turn it on, it would be far too much.
Exactamente.

That's one of the tougher sides of having a constitution. You have to respect it.

publius
2010-Feb-19, 01:39 AM
I don't read it that way. I read that as a general statement of what would happen *if* a laptop were reported stolen, and the wording is bad grammar, and not a reference to this specific case.

He's using the past tense improperly because the feature, thanks to the negative publicity, has been deactivated. I'm sure they've got about 2000thousand parents having a cow about their children being spied on.

It should read something like this:

"Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature would have been activated by the District's security and technology departments."

-Richard

Atraveller
2010-Feb-19, 01:39 AM
Here's the district's official statement:

http://www.lmsd.org/sections/news/default.php?m=0&t=today&p=lmsd_anno&id=1137

According to that, the laptops are Apple machines, not Windows, I see. I know nothing about Macs, save they are expensive.


-Richard

I find it interesting that the statment completely ignores the accusations made in the law suit.

And what I would really find disturbing (if there is any substance to the law suit - any truth to it at all) these are the people teaching the future leaders of the US. Do they have any concept of civil liberties, or personal privacy? Do they think 1984 is how the world should be?

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-19, 01:40 AM
It's totally irrelevant what the student was doing. If it was at the student's home, even the FBI would need a court order to tap a phone, hack a computer, do a search, or whatever. To get that court order, they would have to prove probable cause and show some kind of evidence a priori.


Would they? I'm not a lawyer, and I honestly don't know.

This reminds me of a recent advertisement I saw of a feature that allows your car to be remotely shut down if it is reported stolen. I don't think that requires a court order (I also am not sure I'd want that feature - I don't like the idea that my car could be remotely shut down).

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-19, 01:46 AM
This reminds me of a recent advertisement I saw of a feature that allows your car to be remotely shut down if it is reported stolen. I don't think that requires a court order (I also am not sure I'd want that feature - I don't like the idea that my car could be remotely shut down).
This is a feature you'd installed on your own private property and importantly for this case doesn't invade the privacy of a third party.

Had the school installed a feature that would render the laptop unusable if reported stolen this kerfluffle wouldn't have happened.

publius
2010-Feb-19, 01:46 AM
Would they? I'm not a lawyer, and I honestly don't know.

This reminds me of a recent advertisement I saw of a feature that allows your car to be remotely shut down if it is reported stolen. I don't think that requires a court order (I also am not sure I'd want that feature - I don't like the idea that my care could be remotely shut down).

The cops usually do it, I think. Don't know what the law is, or even if there is much law on that subject, but as I understand it, the companies that operate this will only do the shutdown on the request on the cops, or through some official channels.

And I agree I don't want any of that crap on my vehicles (I'm also worried about "black box" features that the air bag computer and perhaps even the main computer has that will record all sorts of information that can be used in lawsuits :) ).

GM's OnStar has this, and if you search around, you can learn how to disable it. IIRC, the best way to do it is to disconnect the antenna from the system. The "box" has to be connected to the system for it to function properly, but if you take the antenna loose, it can't listen or phone home.


-Richard

Ronald Brak
2010-Feb-19, 01:49 AM
School official/school district does not automatically equate to unquestionable trust, IMHO. If a parent knew the laptops had a feature for two way viewing, the parents should, at the very least, make sure their child is aware, at the most, when the child is not using it for school, put it a box or a laptop bag. Allowing your children to go to a park is not the same as killing your children, no, but I think a closer comparison would be using your children to test the water for sharks. If the parents were aware of the two way viewing feature, they enabled the school to spy on their children.

Here if parents believed a laptop was being used to spy on their children undressing they would call the police. Or possibly place the laptop in an anatomically undesirable position. No one would say, "It's okay, we'll just put it in a bag."

NEOWatcher
2010-Feb-19, 01:49 AM
This would tend to argue for the idea that this was reported stolen (or lost or missing).
Even if it were stolen, the contract (or statement or however legally the school defined the purpose) was for recovering stolen property.

Being that the student was disciplined for behavior and not turned over to police on theft, tells me it wasn't for stealing.

At this point, I see no way that the school can get out of the situation.

Maybe they can pin it totally to the vice principle, but even then, I'm sure a case can be made against the district for allowing it to happen.

No matter what, the VP is not only up for privacy issues, but I would add stupidity to it too for pointing it out.

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-19, 01:51 AM
... a feature that allows your car to be remotely shut down if it is reported stolen. ...
This isn't the same. It's also not like using a GPS signal to locate something.

It's direct observation inside the home, from within the home (where the camera is).


I find it interesting that the statment completely ignores the accusations made in the law suit.
They said it indirectly by stating that the only occasion on which the feature was used was in the case of a loss or theft:


This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever.

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-19, 01:51 AM
I don't read it that way. I read that as a general statement of what would happen *if* a laptop were reported stolen, and the wording is bad grammar, and not a reference to this specific case.


Perhaps. Based on what I've read so far, I think it is still an open question whether this was reported stolen/lost/missing.

swampyankee
2010-Feb-19, 01:52 AM
I find it interesting that the statment completely ignores the accusations made in the law suit.

And what I would really find disturbing (if there is any substance to the law suit - any truth to it at all) these are the people teaching the future leaders of the US. Do they have any concept of civil liberties, or personal privacy? Do they think 1984 is how the world should be?

School administrators? Well, considering the number of strip searches that have been conducted on the say-so of a single administrator, I'd say many of them would view themselves as the perfect embodiment of Big Brother.

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-19, 01:54 AM
This isn't the same. It's also not like using a GPS signal to locate something.

It's direct observation inside the home, from within the home (where the camera is).


Yes, but observation by (perhaps) stolen equipment.

If my laptop was stolen, would it be illegal for me to remotely activate a "call back" feature that could potentially see images of someone in their home?

Again, I don't know.

AstroRockHunter
2010-Feb-19, 01:55 AM
I'm trying to imagine the scene:

[loudspeaker:] "Will Kleindoofy please come to the principal's office?"

in the office

Principal: "Kleindoofy, you were observed being bad, you have a week's detention."

Kleindoofy: "And how do you know this? Who observed it? When did I do it?"

Principal: "You did it in the privacy of your home and we watched you through the cam on your laptop. Like I said, detention for a week, you naughty boy."

Kleindoofy: "Through the cam on my laptop? Wow!" [thinks to himself: "HOLY BEJEEZE, THIS DUDE IS TEH STUPID. AWESOME, LAWSUIT!!!!, $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ - DADDY!!"]

How on Earth could any school official, district or nay, ever think they could use something like that as evidence in disciplining a student? Didn't they realize that it would blow up in their faces?
Sort of brings into question the quality of the education that these students are getting, doesn't it?

Atraveller
2010-Feb-19, 01:58 AM
Would they? I'm not a lawyer, and I honestly don't know.

This reminds me of a recent advertisement I saw of a feature that allows your car to be remotely shut down if it is reported stolen. I don't think that requires a court order (I also am not sure I'd want that feature - I don't like the idea that my car could be remotely shut down).

I think it relates to your fourth amendment rights. There is apparently some questions whether the images from a camera in a public place can be used to convict a person - let alone a camera in a private place.

From Wiki:

In 2007, the UK watchdog CameraWatch claimed that the majority of CCTV cameras in the UK are operated illegally or are in breach of privacy guidelines. In response, the Information Commissioner's Office denied the claim adding that any reported abuses of the Data Protection Act are swiftly investigated.[35]

In the United States, there are no such data protection mechanisms. It has been questioned whether CCTV evidence is allowable under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures". The courts have generally not taken this view.

In Canada, the use of video surveillance has grown very rapidly. In Ontario, both the municipal and provincial versions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act [36] outline very specific guidelines that control how images and information can be gathered by this method and/or released. whole article - CCTV (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed-circuit_television)

publius
2010-Feb-19, 02:04 AM
Perhaps. Based on what I've read so far, I think it is still an open question whether this was reported stolen/lost/missing.


I pretty sure that if that were the case, the district would have said so by now. "We only did it because the laptop was reported stolen by this kid!"

The reason they put the statement out is to give some half-way legitimate sounding reason for why they put webcams with remote control features on the laptop.

Reading around, I see that many schools have used this webcam feature *while the kids are in school, using school owned computers* to monitor the kids and make sure they're not horsing around or whatever (as well as monitoring what they are doing on the computer).

I think this district just took that to the next level of watching the kids while they were at home and crossed a Rubicon they should not have crossed.


-Richard

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-19, 02:10 AM
I pretty sure that if that were the case, the district would have said so by now. "We only did it because the laptop was reported stolen by this kid!" ...
I disagree.

When litigation is pending or probable, you don't say *anything* that can theoretically be turned around against you in court. Your lawyer will tell you to shut up and let him do any talking. All he will say is "no comment."

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-19, 02:15 AM
I pretty sure that if that were the case, the district would have said so by now. "We only did it because the laptop was reported stolen by this kid!"


Did anyone make clear whether or not this was his assigned laptop?

Going back to the statement, I doubt there was a grammar issue - I would expect that they would go over it (and have a lawyer go over it) with a fine toothed comb. This:


This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever.

sounds like a pretty solid statement to me.

swampyankee
2010-Feb-19, 02:17 AM
Quote:
Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the District's security and technology departments. The tracking-security feature was limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator's screen. This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever.
--from Van Rijn (http://www.bautforum.com/off-topic-babbling/100960-school-spies-students-webcam-2.html#post1683974)

Reading the first sentence seems to imply that the tracking feature was activated upon the report that a student laptop was reported missing, lost, or stolen, not that this particular laptop was reported missing, lost, or stolen. Johny calls the VP "Mr VP, I left my laptop on the bus." Security then activates the tracking feature on every laptop and catches Sue smoking in front of her laptop. The VP is then called to identify the mystery student, says "ok; that's her laptop, but that **tch is smoking!"

Atraveller
2010-Feb-19, 02:18 AM
I pretty sure that if that were the case, the district would have said so by now. "We only did it because the laptop was reported stolen by this kid!"

The reason they put the statement out is to give some half-way legitimate sounding reason for why they put webcams with remote control features on the laptop.

Reading around, I see that many schools have used this webcam feature *while the kids are in school, using school owned computers* to monitor the kids and make sure they're not horsing around or whatever (as well as monitoring what they are doing on the computer).

I think this district just took that to the next level of watching the kids while they were at home and crossed a Rubicon they should not have crossed.


-Richard

I think the Rubicon was much earlier - when does "monitoring activities" become invasion of privacy?

Just because the technology exists - doesn't grant the school the right to use it - even inside the school - to invade personal privacy. In some instances this would be obvious (ie. no cameras in the kids washrooms or showers) but perhaps the line should be pushed back even further?

publius
2010-Feb-19, 02:19 AM
I disagree.

When litigation is pending or probable, you don't say *anything* that can theoretically be turned around against you in court. Your lawyer will tell you to shut up and let him do any talking. All he will say is "no comment."

Yes, that's what lawyers tell you. If you're a nobody, Joe Six pack, charged with something, shutting up *completely* makes sense. However, if you're in the public eye, you've got to weigh that against public opinion. I've heard people debate this at length. The school district made an official statement about this, which would violate the "lawyer up" rule from the get go, and it did for PR purposes, as they got a few thousand angry parents breathing down their necks.


-Richard

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-19, 02:26 AM
--from Van Rijn (http://www.bautforum.com/off-topic-babbling/100960-school-spies-students-webcam-2.html#post1683974)

Reading the first sentence seems to imply that the tracking feature was activated upon the report that a student laptop was reported missing, lost, or stolen, not that this particular laptop was reported missing, lost, or stolen. Johny calls the VP "Mr VP, I left my laptop on the bus." Security then activates the tracking feature on every laptop and catches Sue smoking in front of her laptop. The VP is then called to identify the mystery student, says "ok; that's her laptop, but that **tch is smoking!"

It's interesting how differently we interpret it. If there was somebody in their District that was using it for something other than to locate a reported stolen/etc. laptop, I would expect their lawyers would advise them not to make such a strong statement that the webcams were only used for that purpose.

ETA: If they weren't very sure, I'd expect some weasel words, like "To our knowledge . . ."

closetgeek
2010-Feb-19, 02:42 AM
Here if parents believed a laptop was being used to spy on their children undressing they would call the police. Or possibly place the laptop in an anatomically undesirable position. No one would say, "It's okay, we'll just put it in a bag."

No I was saying under the specific set of circumstances that the parents were made aware of the two way device, when the students were given the laptops, not discovering it after the fact.

I am not saying that I agree with the device at all, nor do I think, under any circumstances should that assistant principal have been accessing the camera. I was just saying that there is a possibility that the student was tampering with the device, which is was triggered an alert.

Ronald Brak
2010-Feb-19, 03:38 AM
No I was saying under the specific set of circumstances that the parents were made aware of the two way device, when the students were given the laptops, not discovering it after the fact.

Correct me if I am wrong, but you suggested that the parents should have realized that the laptop could potentially take photos of their children while undressing when they first acquired it and should have kept it in a box or bag to avoid that possibility. I am saying that here, in this country, that if parents realized there was a possibility of such a thing happening it would not have been acceptable, and keeping it in a box or bag would not be reguarded as an acceptable solution.

AtitAgain
2010-Feb-19, 07:44 AM
Here are a few I found from a quick search:


http://www.gadgettrak.com/

If your laptop is stolen, our software will tell you where it is, who has it and even what their wearing.

Ok, that is very creepy given the nature of this artilce!


http://www.orbicule.com/undercover/mac/

See who's using your Mac
Undercover introduces another world first: if your Mac has a built-in or external iSight, Undercover will transmit pictures of the thief and his surroundings every 6 minutes, making it even easier to identify the current user. It's like having a private detective working for you.

Nothing left Undercover(ed) Or how about a private pervert!

Not sure who the school district used, but it definately seems like someone decided vigilante discipline is a good IT policy. Perhaps someone should "educate" the educaters on privacy laws...oh and common sense!

swampyankee
2010-Feb-19, 01:20 PM
Of course, this entire security policy is based on the assumption that laptop thieves are too stupid to a) cover the webcam lens with a piece of masking tape or b) remove the battery. The thieves that are too stupid to do either are probably not going to be a long-term problem except in the need to feed and house them in prison.

On the other hand, I would not be the least surprised if many of the school administrators felt that having a webcam to spy on students off-campus activities would be a very good idea. There are public schools that will suspend students for legal off-campus1 activities that are against school policy.



--------------
1: Being generous, I would consider school-sponsored off-campus activities, like dances, field trips, and away games, to be within the definition of "campus."

closetgeek
2010-Feb-19, 01:40 PM
Correct me if I am wrong, but you suggested that the parents should have realized that the laptop could potentially take photos of their children while undressing when they first acquired it and should have kept it in a box or bag to avoid that possibility. I am saying that here, in this country, that if parents realized there was a possibility of such a thing happening it would not have been acceptable, and keeping it in a box or bag would not be reguarded as an acceptable solution.

No what I am saying is; if, prior to the school actually handing out the laptops, the parents were made aware of the two way capabilities, whether it be by letter (to be signed and returned) or meeting, some way for the parents to know and make an informed decision on whether or not to have a device with spying capabilities, that would be a caution I would think necessary. That is only under the condition that everyone, including the student was aware of that capability. I am not blaming the parents after the fact and at this point, as said before, the argument is moot. The parents were apparently not made aware, nor were the students, as far as the story tells.
I am not blaming the parents after the fact and no, I don't think they somehow should have known that the school was spying. I certainly would not have anticipated a school to overstep it's boundaries like that. But, if the school offered my child a laptop and informed me that it was being monitored and had a security device with picture surveillance capabilities, and if I chose to accept the laptop in my house, with full knowledge, yes, I would feel that making sure the child is aware, only allowing the child to use the laptop for school work, and when it is not being used for such purpose, keeping it shut down and in a bag will prevent the school from being able monitor anything not school related.
It really doesn't matter, though because these don't seem to be the conditions of this particular case.

NEOWatcher
2010-Feb-19, 02:18 PM
But, if the school offered my child a laptop and informed me that it was being monitored and had a security device with picture surveillance capabilities...
If the laptop was being provided for convenience, I would agree.

But; if there were educational requirements based on software or other functionality that only those laptops provided, then another issue arises.

SeanF
2010-Feb-19, 02:36 PM
Did anyone make clear whether or not this was his assigned laptop?
The copy of the lawsuit linked in the OP (the second link, the PDF), does explicitly state that it was his assigned laptop (last paragraph of page 6):


...informed minor Plaintiff that the School District was of the belief that minor Plaintiff was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor Plaintiff's personal laptop issued by the School District.
My bold.

closetgeek
2010-Feb-19, 02:38 PM
If the laptop was being provided for convenience, I would agree.

But; if there were educational requirements based on software or other functionality that only those laptops provided, then another issue arises.

It actually makes me wonder, now, though. The school district here has a few Web Sites for parents and students to utilize. One allows parents direct access to the child's weekly assignments and grades. The other contains grade appropriate games based on what's being taught in the classroom. I wonder if logging on to those Sites installs MRUs or the likes.

swampyankee
2010-Feb-19, 05:42 PM
At least some of the school software I've used (when I was long-term subbing) will install stuff onto a laptop; iirc it also needed to enable quite a bit more privileges for the web site than I felt were justified.

ktesibios
2010-Feb-19, 08:11 PM
I have to wonder what Pennsylvania's wiretapping law would say about this.

In PA it's illegal to record yourself having a conversation with another person unless you inform that person that they are being recorded and obtain their consent.

Surreptitiously video-bugging someone for what appears to be a "let's see if we can catch {kid we don't like} doing something we can dump on him for" fishing expedition might just tear a wide breach in the law.

mugaliens
2010-Feb-19, 08:28 PM
This is a clear violation of both federal civil rights laws as well as similar laws in all 50 of the United States.

When I recall these are the people who're guiding our students to their futures, I get a very uncomfortable feeling...

Larry Jacks
2010-Feb-19, 09:56 PM
This sounds very much like one of those cases where we'll have to wait awhile to get the full story (see: 48 hour rule). The press does such a poor job that I'm not willing to accept the story at face value. As others have pointed out, the lawsuit is written by the plaintif and does not necessarily reflect the truth.

If this story happened as reported, it could well be a case of someone abusing a capability because they can. If so, those involved should be fired and prosecuted.

publius
2010-Feb-19, 10:04 PM
Here's another Philly.com story on this:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/homepage/20100219_Student_claims_school_spied_on_him_via_co mputer_webcam.html

District now says they're taking this "very seriously" and investigating.

Another story about remotely activating the webcams,

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/nation_world/20100219_Remotely_accessing_a_laptop_is_fairly_eas y.html

has an interesting tidbit. The camera on these things has a little LED that lights up when the camera is operating. But it says the school district warned students of a bug that will randomly turn that LED on even if the camera is not being accessed. While the bug is apparently real, this could be interpreted as a "cover story" to get students to disregard the warning light.

-Richard

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-19, 10:22 PM
There has to be more to this than just an overly zealous vice-principal.

I don't see her, all by herself, without anybody else having prior knowledge,

1) suspecting the student of bad behavior in his own home,

2) accessing the remote webcam, without any technical assistance, from her workplace,

3) compiling and securing the "evidence,"

4) accusing and confronting the student,

5) disciplining the student with official school authority.

Things just don't work that way.

Even if she had some kind of perverted personal vendetta against the kid, she must have had some technical assistance, at the very least.

I would suspect that more people were involved beforehand. Nobody can or would fly a solo like that and expect the school to play along. This must have been an official school action.

publius
2010-Feb-20, 12:33 AM
The FBI is on it, now, as well as the local prosecutor:

http://cbs3.com/local/Lower.Merion.School.2.1506516.html

I'm hoping they get all data seized (hard drives, etc) before anyone has a chance to delete any evidence.


-Richard

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-20, 12:50 AM
The FBI is on it, now ...
Which backs up my thought posted above that federal law may be invloved, therefore also federal charges if it goes to court.


... I'm hoping they get all data seized (hard drives, etc) before anyone has a chance to delete any evidence.
The evidence was already used to discipline the student, so it's existence is indisputabel. If anybody tried to delete it, they would be picking up the soap in the shower at Leavenworth for many years to come. That's called obstruction of justice and is taken very seriously.

This isn't a kids' game of Go Fish.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-20, 02:39 AM
In this case I think publius referred to possible other pictures taken possibly with other students' laptops.
I find it highly unlikely that the only picture taken would be such that the student would get disciplined for the action shown, so chances are there are others.
The only situation I can think of where only one picture was taken is if the student reported the laptop stolen, they used their anti-theft thingie to take a picture and it showed the student who was subsequently disciplined for falsely reporting the laptop stolen and that situation could have warranted a fraud plus theft charge rather than discipline and should have left a substantial paper trail that would have been mentioned by now.

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-20, 04:20 AM
The FBI is on it, now, as well as the local prosecutor:

http://cbs3.com/local/Lower.Merion.School.2.1506516.html


That's a more interesting article. If this is true:


According to his family, Blake was reprimanded for an image captured on his webcam inside his home.

"She described to me in my room and she described what I was doing she said she thought I had pills and said she thought I was selling drugs," Blake said.

then it would have been used for something other than locating a missing laptop. On the other hand, there was this:


The suit does not say if his laptop had been reported stolen, and Young said the litigation prevents him from disclosing that fact. He said the district never violated its policy of only using the remote-activation software to find missing laptops. "Infer what you want," Young said.

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-20, 04:26 AM
The copy of the lawsuit linked in the OP (the second link, the PDF), does explicitly state that it was his assigned laptop (last paragraph of page 6):

My bold.

Thanks for the information.

swampyankee
2010-Feb-20, 04:26 AM
Quote:

The suit does not say if his laptop had been reported stolen, and Young said the litigation prevents him from disclosing that fact. He said the district never violated its policy of only using the remote-activation software to find missing laptops. "Infer what you want," Young said.
(from van Rijn (http://www.bautforum.com/off-topic-babbling/100960-school-spies-students-webcam-3.html#post1684844))

Infer what I want? I'm sure he'd be terribly offended if I inferred he was lying, and that the remote activation software was used for other things.

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-20, 04:31 AM
Another story about remotely activating the webcams,

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/nation_world/20100219_Remotely_accessing_a_laptop_is_fairly_eas y.html


In that one, there is this bit:


Widener University law professor Stephen Henderson said yesterday that unauthorized surveillance with a laptop camera would violate wiretap laws - even if being used to identify a suspected computer thief.

That's one of my bigggest questions - the law issue, if the webcam is being used to identify people on a stolen computer.

Van Rijn
2010-Feb-20, 04:41 AM
The only situation I can think of where only one picture was taken is if the student reported the laptop stolen, they used their anti-theft thingie to take a picture and it showed the student who was subsequently disciplined for falsely reporting the laptop stolen and that situation could have warranted a fraud plus theft charge rather than discipline and should have left a substantial paper trail that would have been mentioned by now.

Assuming it was about a reported stolen laptop, I could think of a few reasons they might go the discipline route instead of pressing charges. Legality of using the images for evidence in court would be just one (that's a different issue than taking pictures).

publius
2010-Feb-20, 04:55 AM
Here's an interesting site I stumbled on:

http://saveardmorecoalition.org/

This is apparently some community news type website for the area involved in this. There's lots of interesting posts about this story. One is a post by someone who got of on the student issued computers and investigated it a bit. Apparently the students are given only a limited user access account that disables many applications (like a terminal prompt). There was also a post by a former student who hacked one of the laptops, gaining administrative access and got in a lot of trouble for it. Apparently, once you had adminstrative access on the school network, you could get into a lot of sensitive files, such as grades (you can only imagine how lax security would be).

And there's some more interesting stuff about the student in question there if you dig around.

-Richard

Sam5
2010-Feb-20, 05:16 PM
Surely this is not the only school with these types of computers. This is just the only one, so far, that got caught spying on students in their own homes. I wonder how many companies have issued these types of laptops to their employees?

Sam5
2010-Feb-20, 05:36 PM
...the Maine Learning Technology Initiative has just negotiated a deal with Apple to provide MacBooks to every middle- and high-schooler in the state.

The MLTI program began earlier this decade with a program to supply every 7th and 8th grader in Maine with an iBook. The success of the program prompted the state to expand it to include all Maine high school students as well. That expansion includes a deal with Apple to supply another 64,000 MacBooks to the roughly 37,000 already in circulation...

More here:
http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2009/07/maine-negotiates-to-gives-macbooks-to-all-712-graders.ars

sarongsong
2010-Feb-22, 06:49 AM
February 19, 2010
...It [the lawsuit] claims that since the laptops were used by students and their friends and family at home, images of "compromising or embarrassing positions, including...in various states of undress" have been captured...
guardian.co.uk (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/19/schools-spied-on-students-webcams):eek:

SeanF
2010-Feb-22, 03:54 PM
:eek:
Whoever wrote that article needs to take a remedial English class and learn what the word "may" means. :)


...it is believed and therefore averred that many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors and their parents or friends in compromising or embarrassing positions, including, but not limited to, in various stages of dress or undress.
(Emphasis mine, quote comes from the PDF linked in the OP)

Moose
2010-Feb-22, 04:28 PM
We kicked around this lawsuit in my Classroom Management class for a bit today when we were talking about corporate remote monitoring and paperless classrooms.

sarongsong
2010-Feb-22, 05:12 PM
Whoever wrote that article needs to...learn what the word "may" means...Good catch! :clap:
CNN TV is covering this story in every news cycle; latest quote from the reported boy's mother is that she received a call from the school concerning her son holding up "pills" to the computer's camera, when in fact they were "Mike and Ike" (http://www.grsn.me/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Mike-n-Ike-768x1024.jpg) candies, "to which he is addicted".

Extravoice
2010-Feb-22, 08:45 PM
CNN TV is covering this story in every news cycle; latest quote from the reported boy's mother is that she received a call from the school concerning her son holding up "pills" to the computer's camera, when in fact they were "Mike and Ike" (http://www.grsn.me/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Mike-n-Ike-768x1024.jpg) candies, "to which he is addicted".

Maybe I'm just getting cynical in my old age, but take reports like this with a grain of salt.

tdvance
2010-Feb-22, 09:59 PM
According to http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100220/D9E04NVG0.html the school claims it was against regs to remove the laptop from school premises, so that might be a good reason to consider the laptop "missing" if so.

publius
2010-Feb-23, 09:16 PM
The company which wrote the "spy software" blasted the school district:

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9160278/Software_maker_blasts_vigilantism_in_Pa._school_sp ying_case?taxonomyId=12


The company is Absolute Software, and the product the school district was using is called "Absolute Manage", formerly "LANRev". They may be distancing themselves from this for fear of their own liability.


-Richard

swampyankee
2010-Feb-23, 10:21 PM
According to http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100220/D9E04NVG0.html the school claims it was against regs to remove the laptop from school premises, so that might be a good reason to consider the laptop "missing" if so.

It's not unlikely that the regulation was so widely ignored as to be useless. In at least one school where I've subbed, eating and drinking in classrooms and hallways was absolutely forbidden, and the policy was completely unenforced. It is also quite likely that the regulation read something like "the student is responsible for his or her laptop, which may not be removed from school grounds without the permission of a teacher or administrator," where "school grounds" is defined as "any school-sanctioned activity," i.e., the student can take the laptop to science fairs and on field trips and student-athletes can take them to away games. Of course, the administrator could be lying, but we know that never happens:whistle:.
If the regulation was widely unenforced, the student could probably win a discrimination lawsuit, to go with the violation of things like the 4th Amendment.

I'll give you a completely true (it happened to me) and, I think, relevant anecdote. Two students in an elementary school were out on recess. Both were dressed similarly, with very similar plaid windbreakers. One student was seen attempting to pry a stone out of a retaining wall. The other student -- me -- was called into the principal's office because the first student "would never have done that." Administrators are human; they make mistakes. They are human; they try to deny them.

publius
2010-Feb-25, 12:31 AM
Lindy Matsko, the assistant principal named in the lawsuit, came out swinging and strongly denied she spied on any student.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-19518_3-10459240-238.html

She said thus,

"...at no point in time did I have the ability to access any Webcam through security-tracking software. At no time have I ever monitored a student via a laptop Webcam, nor have I ever authorized the monitoring of a student via security-tracking Webcam either at school or in the home. And I never would."

Parsing that in a lawerly fashion, while she didn't have the ability, nor did she authorize any monitoring, she didn't say she didn't use anything obtained from someone else monitoring that she didn't authorize.



-Richard

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-25, 12:43 AM
"...at no point in time did I have the ability to access any Webcam through security-tracking software. At no time have I ever monitored a student via a laptop Webcam, nor have I ever authorized the monitoring of a student via security-tracking Webcam either at school or in the home. And I never would."


There has to be more to this than just an overly zealous vice-principal.

I don't see her, all by herself, without anybody else having prior knowledge, ...

2) accessing the remote webcam, without any technical assistance, from her workplace,

3) compiling and securing the "evidence,"

... she must have had some technical assistance, at the very least.

I would suspect that more people were involved ...
Yup.

publius
2010-Feb-25, 04:13 AM
The federal judge handling this case has issued an order for the school district to disable the "spy software".

And I stumbled on what I was looking for, a blog post by a security type about this "spy software". This post is very informative:

http://strydehax.blogspot.com/2010/02/spy-at-harrington-high.html

The software being is called "LANRev", as I mentioned above. It runs as a client on the machine. Said client "phones home" to the server, over whatever internet connection is available, and serves as a remote administration tool.

That connection itself isn't even secure, meaning it could be intercepted/hacked, and the remote control runs as root on the target machine!

Now, it turns out than an IT employee of the district, a network tech, actually appeared in a promotional webcast for this software, bragging about the remote tracking features and even taking pictures with the webcam. He goes so far as to brag about being able to control someone's machine without their knowledge.

It's only at the very end does he mention the "theft recovery" uses. And incidently in a blog post he mentions an incident where they found a stolen laptop at some IP address the physical location they identified and sent the cops out. Turned out the laptop wasn't at that house, but at a neighbor's. They were stealing the first home's wifi connection! All the more reason to learn how to secure your wireless access.

And finally here's a way to determine if the LANRev is installed on a machine on your network:

http://strydehax.blogspot.com/2010/02/network-fingerprint-for-lanrev-trojan.html

He goes so far as to call LANRev a trojan because its own security is so poor.

-Richard

closetgeek
2010-Feb-25, 02:08 PM
Hey Publius, is there an English version to that link? Just kidding, sort of. I will have my boyfriend check things out, this weekend. I use school software and can't help but worry if this is a trend. I am not all that concerned that the school might find out that I spend too much time on a science forum or frequent FB, it's the privacy issues that concern me. They have no right.

tdvance
2010-Feb-25, 09:57 PM
The federal judge handling this case has issued an order for the school district to disable the "spy software".

And I stumbled on what I was looking for, a blog post by a security type about this "spy software". This post is very informative:

http://strydehax.blogspot.com/2010/02/spy-at-harrington-high.html

The software being is called "LANRev", as I mentioned above. It runs as a client on the machine. Said client "phones home" to the server, over whatever internet connection is available, and serves as a remote administration tool.

That connection itself isn't even secure, meaning it could be intercepted/hacked, and the remote control runs as root on the target machine!

Now, it turns out than an IT employee of the district, a network tech, actually appeared in a promotional webcast for this software, bragging about the remote tracking features and even taking pictures with the webcam. He goes so far as to brag about being able to control someone's machine without their knowledge.

It's only at the very end does he mention the "theft recovery" uses. And incidently in a blog post he mentions an incident where they found a stolen laptop at some IP address the physical location they identified and sent the cops out. Turned out the laptop wasn't at that house, but at a neighbor's. They were stealing the first home's wifi connection! All the more reason to learn how to secure your wireless access.

And finally here's a way to determine if the LANRev is installed on a machine on your network:

http://strydehax.blogspot.com/2010/02/network-fingerprint-for-lanrev-trojan.html

He goes so far as to call LANRev a trojan because its own security is so poor.

-Richard

Ok, that's like this ad I saw once of a scanner (think Bearcat and the like, get police and fire reports in your neighborhood, at least if they're unencrypted)---it was made, according to the ad, before the law disallowing them to be able to pick up cordless phone conversations (this was the older kind, used frequencies in the same general range of other walkie-talkies), but don't use it for that because that's illegal! Yeah, wasn't meant to be a selling point or anything :)

And the older scanners did have that "flaw", I know, because when my parents got their first cordless phone in the late '80s, a nosy aunt who lived just down the road once called us up to speak to us about the phone conversation she just heard on her scanner, asking about some of the particulars....

publius
2010-Feb-25, 10:07 PM
Hey Publius, is there an English version to that link? Just kidding, sort of. I will have my boyfriend check things out, this weekend. I use school software and can't help but worry if this is a trend. I am not all that concerned that the school might find out that I spend too much time on a science forum or frequent FB, it's the privacy issues that concern me. They have no right.

Are you in high school or college? Is this your own computer or a school issued one? I'm no expert on this stuff and know just enough to be dangerous, so if you're worried, get someone who really knows what he's doing.

If it's your machine, and you're just running some school software, you will have administrative privileges and can find out what's going on. There are utility programs that will show all network connections (that is, if any program running on the machine has opened up a connection). Also, you can look at the lights on any switches and routers and see if there's any suspicious network activity.

If it's a school machine, then they own it, literally as well as figuratively. Personally, I wouldn't let any machine on my network that I didn't have adminstrative control over.


-Richard

Larry Jacks
2010-Feb-25, 10:11 PM
If you're concerned, put a piece of tape or a stamp over the web camera.

publius
2010-Feb-25, 10:14 PM
The plot thickens:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/homepage/20100225_Contradictions_in_L__Merion_Web-cam_case.html

After the principal issued her (lawerly) denial, a lawyer for the kid comes out and says she called him and told him she'd been reading what he was typing on his screen in addition to seeing images from the web cam.

Now, the kid himself read some statement in response to Matsko's "denial" and said just what I was thinking from parsing her statement in a lawyerly fashion:

"Ms. Matsko does not deny that she saw a Web-cam picture and screenshot of me in my home," said Robbins, a blue-jeaned, slight teenager with brown bangs. "She only denies that she is the one who activated the Web cam."

From that blog post about LANRev, an adminstrator running the server side can open up a window and click on any machine connected and see what's going on on the desktop.


-Richard

NEOWatcher
2010-Feb-26, 12:16 AM
"Ms. Matsko does not deny that she saw a Web-cam picture and screenshot of me in my home," said Robbins, a blue-jeaned, slight teenager with brown bangs. "She only denies that she is the one who activated the Web cam."
Oh yes; that is sooo important to the statement.:rolleyes:

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-26, 12:25 AM
A little bit of ageism/lookism there.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-26, 03:51 AM
Oh yes; that is sooo important to the statement.:rolleyes:
Trying to pain a picture of him as a just a normal kid, while ignoring he's got his father to parse the legalese for him if needed.

publius
2010-Feb-26, 04:07 AM
Heh. It just hit me. What if the assistant principal was just bluffing to try to get the kid to confess? :lol: You know the old trick that goes something like this. The cops have some suspect in and ask, "What if I told you we have a witness that saw you fleeing from the scene of the crime?" They have no such witness, they just want to trip him up.

So, what if Ms. Masko was doing just that. Suppose she knew about the spyware capabilities, had heard reports from other students that this kid was using/selling drugs, and tried this trick?

-Richard

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-26, 04:36 AM
Her accusations were described to specifically for that.

And even so, it would be a moronic thing to do, as she'd them admitted a crime she didn't do.

publius
2010-Feb-26, 05:33 AM
Some more information. The kids can normally take their issued laptops home with them. For this, they must pay an insurance fee. The kid's issued laptop was apparently in for repair and they issued him a temporary "loaner". Students were not allowed to take loaners in as they had not paid insurance on them.

The kid here apparently took his loaner home, which was against the rules, and that triggered the theft identification procedure. This clears this up how "his" laptop could be reported stolen.

I was reading a discussion between lawyers about this case and most of them agreed that the "statutory claims" would not be supported by the facts (that is the school would not be found criminally guilty of violating wiretap or eavesdropping laws), but the 4th Amendment right to privacy issue is supported.

IOW, they had no business fretting over anything they say him doing via the webcam or typing on his screen via the screen capture features. They could only use it to identify that the kid had taken his laptop home against the rules.

Now, whether those lawyers are correct or not, I don't know, but that's what they were saying.

-Richard

closetgeek
2010-Feb-26, 02:16 PM
Are you in high school or college? Is this your own computer or a school issued one? I'm no expert on this stuff and know just enough to be dangerous, so if you're worried, get someone who really knows what he's doing.

-Richard

It's my machine, I am admin. I use home accessible web site to track grade for my two in public school and they use web sites for completing assignments and educational fun and games programs. I am to unsure to go clicking around in things but my boyfriend is computer savy. I will have him check things out when he comes over this weekend.


I was reading a discussion between lawyers about this case and most of them agreed that the "statutory claims" would not be supported by the facts (that is the school would not be found criminally guilty of violating wiretap or eavesdropping laws), but the 4th Amendment right to privacy issue is supported.

I figured there had to be more to the story. You have to wonder, though, doesn't tripping the security system fall under probably cause? More so, the laptops are school property so if what ever he was doing is breaking rules clearly stated on the agreement, the school technically does have the right to punish him, even if he was in his own home.

sarongsong
2010-Apr-17, 04:31 AM
Update:
April 15, 2010
...It was like a window into "a little LMSD [school district] soap opera," a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.
"I know, I love it," she is quoted as having replied...In the filing, the Penn Valley family claims the district's records show that the controversial tracking system captured more than 400 photos and screen images from 15-year-old Blake Robbins' school-issued laptop during two weeks last fall, and that "thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots have been taken of numerous other students in their homes."...
philly.com (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20100415_Lawyer__Laptops_took_thousands_of_photos. html)

J Riff
2010-Apr-17, 06:55 AM
wow. Without reading the whole thread ... anyone can do this kind of thing so be sure of who you buy your laptop from.

TrAI
2010-Apr-17, 02:35 PM
Some more information. The kids can normally take their issued laptops home with them. For this, they must pay an insurance fee. The kid's issued laptop was apparently in for repair and they issued him a temporary "loaner". Students were not allowed to take loaners in as they had not paid insurance on them.

The kid here apparently took his loaner home, which was against the rules, and that triggered the theft identification procedure. This clears this up how "his" laptop could be reported stolen.

I was reading a discussion between lawyers about this case and most of them agreed that the "statutory claims" would not be supported by the facts (that is the school would not be found criminally guilty of violating wiretap or eavesdropping laws), but the 4th Amendment right to privacy issue is supported.

IOW, they had no business fretting over anything they say him doing via the webcam or typing on his screen via the screen capture features. They could only use it to identify that the kid had taken his laptop home against the rules.

Now, whether those lawyers are correct or not, I don't know, but that's what they were saying.

-Richard

What I could see as a possible solution to the statements of both sides is that the machine called back when started at the students home(either due to it detecting the violation or as part of a standard connection to the school network), the system at the school detected this as a machine removed from the legal use area, and this triggered a warning popup on the administration machine(s). In such a setup the assistant principal would not have to authorize anyone, as the system is automatic, she only have to look at the information presented to her.

I would ask if it was provably made clear to the student that it was not allowed to remove the loaner from the school premises, as it is reasonable for the student to assume that the payment was for the service, that is, usage of a computer at home, not usage of a specific machine at home. It is very easy to say that something was not allowed afterwards and have neglected to make sure the student was aware of this at the time.

Something like this:
Student: My machine is broken.
School personel: Ok, we will have it looked at, you can use this in the meantime *handing over loaner*
Student: Thanks! *goes of to class*

I think in many cases administrations use features that the employees/students/whatever are not fully informed of the capabilities and implications of. It may be stated somewhere in the paperwork that "this machine contains anti-theft/theft-recovery software", or something to that effect, that does not give the user a feeling for what this really means.

kleindoofy
2010-Apr-17, 03:53 PM
In the filing, the Penn Valley family claims the district's records show that the controversial tracking system captured more than 400 photos and screen images from 15-year-old Blake Robbins' school-issued laptop during two weeks last fall, and that "thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots have been taken of numerous other students in their homes."...
If that's really true, then I'll be looking forward to the lecture those responsible will be holding in 2030: "My 20 years in federal prison."

publius
2010-Apr-17, 09:26 PM
Heh -- Carol Cafiero, the tech official in charge, took the 5th at a deposition:

http://whyy.org/cms/news/regional-news/2010/04/12/lower-merion-school-computer-tech-invokes-5th-amendment/35815


-Richard

Extravoice
2010-Apr-18, 08:22 PM
Heh -- Carol Cafiero, the tech official in charge, took the 5th at a deposition:

Smart move, whether she has anything to hide or not.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

ETA: The video is a little long (48-mins), but well-worth watching IMHO.

kleindoofy
2010-Apr-18, 08:30 PM
Smart move, whether she has anything to hide or not. ...
Except if she just happens to be an honest, law-abiding citizen who wants to support the cause of justice.

Otherwise, sure.

[edit:] At a first glance, the video refers to making statements to the police while unattended by council.

What I gather from the posts made above, the woman took the 5th at a deposition. Unless I'm mistaken, depositions are made with all parties present.

Huge difference.

Extravoice
2010-Apr-18, 09:52 PM
Except if she just happens to be an honest, law-abiding citizen who wants to support the cause of justice.

I don't buy that argument, but that's a whole 'nother thread. :)


At a first glance, the video refers to making statements to the police while unattended by council.

It does.


What I gather from the posts made above, the woman took the 5th at a deposition. Unless I'm mistaken, depositions are made with all parties present.

According to Wikipedia, "Attorneys for the deposing litigant are often present, although this is not required in all jurisdictions." So, you are probably correct in that council was present.


Huge difference.

You are free to draw that inference.

Luckmeister
2010-Apr-19, 01:02 AM
As is well known, websites offering free applications for download are notorious for installing spyware with the app. I use a very well-known audio-video net-phone app as well as two audio-video editing apps, plus a DVD burning app, plus a movie-making app that came with my OS -- all free and all having audio-video capturing access. There's also my ISP.

So am I being paranoid by covering my webcam and unplugging my microphone whenever they're not in use? I don't think so!! I've made that a habit for the past year and don't plan to change. I'm sure anyone spying on me in my home would find it pretty boring, but even so, I still don't want it possible.

Mike

DrRocket
2010-Apr-19, 06:39 AM
According to Wikipedia, "Attorneys for the deposing litigant are often present, although this is not required in all jurisdictions." So, you are probably correct in that council was present.



I have been involved in several depositions in civil cases, both as the one being deposed and as an expert on hand to advise counsel. In all cases the lawyers badly outnumbered all other categories combined. You are unlikely to ever go into a deposition without some formal training by counsel. If your lawyer does not give you such training, I suggest getting another lawyer, but I cannot imagine that happening.

BTW when advising counsel as an expert, all communication was in the form of written notes, which the lawyer tore up. Good attorneys are very very careful about creating discoverable written records. This is more than consistent with the "don't talk" advice for criminal cases in the video.

Canis Lupus
2010-Apr-19, 11:08 AM
I still want to know if the laptop was reported stolen. Is there any information on that?

I can see a lawyer father coming up with something like this if his kid was disciplined for stealing a computer.

You know a lot of lawyer-father's to making this very questionable assertion?

Glom
2010-Apr-19, 12:09 PM
Are those comments from the officials about them lapping it up verified? If so, someone is soon to be on the sex offenders register.

sarongsong
2010-Apr-20, 01:29 AM
...Reading the first sentence seems to imply that the tracking feature was activated upon the report that a student laptop was reported missing, lost, or stolen, not that this particular laptop was reported missing, lost, or stolen...Apparently, it didn't matter...
April 16, 2010
...“Discovery to date has now revealed that thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots (http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2010/04/webcamscam.pdf) (.pdf) have been taken from numerous other students in their homes, many of which never reported their laptops lost or missing,” attorney Mark Haltzman wrote in a Thursday federal court filing...
Wired (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/04/webcamscanda/)

publius
2010-Apr-20, 01:42 AM
Who wants to start a pool on when the first shots of some poor girl student in various stages of undress are discovered? I'm sure that's going to come out soon.

-Richard

kleindoofy
2010-Apr-20, 01:45 AM
... thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots have been taken from numerous other students in their homes ...
Hmmm.

20 years per pic, consecutive sentences ... My, my, somebody could be in prison until the year 22,010.

Well, ok, for good behavior they could try for parole by at least 12,010. ;)

swampyankee
2010-Apr-20, 01:56 AM
...and on the sex offender registry list forever.

rommel543
2010-Apr-20, 04:45 PM
If you're curious or concerned about what is accessing the internet or network resources on your Windows system there is a nice command that tells. You open a command window and type in "netstat -b". It will list out everything accessing running on your system that is using network resources.

I've included an example.. You can see on the first line that it's a TCP protocol (i.e. Which means an End to End like server/client based, unlike a UDP which is more of a multicast usually used for single system broadcasting to multiple other systems), the local IP address that it's running out of, the computer port that it is running out of, the state (Established or Active means it's doing something, waiting or listening usually means that its silently waiting at the door for another application to "come knocking"), then after that you have the local application that is using that connection so in this case LogMeIn the remote access software I use. It's when you start getting odd names in the application, or a lot of "unable to determine ownership" that you need to start running your antivirus.


Also if you type in netstat -a it will show all active connections (An application can have multiple connections). If you get a constant or very large list of active connections, and you're not running a file share program or have lots of browser windows open, it's also a very bad sign.

tdvance
2010-Apr-20, 08:57 PM
but before that, the fake versions will be out. If you're brave enough and not at work, try searching for it with safe search turned off---I have not done that (I swear!! really!) but would not be surprised if the photoshops are already out there.

ETA: in reply to Publius "pool" suggestion.

Atraveller
2010-Apr-24, 11:55 PM
Who wants to start a pool on when the first shots of some poor girl student in various stages of undress are discovered? I'm sure that's going to come out soon.

-Richard

Taken from this week's "This is True" - apparently the lawyer has started releasing some pictures...


IN FEBRUARY I ran a story about a school district that gave all the high
school kids laptops -- and then was accused of spying on them in their
homes. One kid was hauled into the assistant principal's office to be
reprimanded for "improper behavior in his home" -- the AP thought he
was doing drugs; turns out he was eating candy. The boy's family sued.
"Many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of
minors and their parents ... in various stages of dress or undress,"
the suit alleged. Their lawyer has since obtained "thousands" of photos
from the school, and sure enough, he says, they include shots of the
15-year-old boy "partially undressed." He released an example shot not
of the boy undressed, but in bed. Yep: the school was taking shots of
the kids in their bedrooms.

He also obtained e-mails, including one where a school staffer told
Carol Cafiero, the information systems coordinator, that watching the
kids was "a little [Lower Merion School District] soap opera." Cafiero
allegedly responded, "I know, I love it."

I have an update to my blog post (which includes the original story)
with more details (and that shot of the kid in bed, so you can really
feel the impact of the intrusion. Don't worry: the kid's lawyer
released it so you would!), and there are links to news stories with
more details on it all. See http://ThisIsTrue.com/d-1984


update - on school spies with web cam (http://www.thisistrue.com/blog-1984_in_2010.html#update)

mugaliens
2010-Apr-25, 10:36 AM
Who wants to start a pool on when the first shots of some poor girl student in various stages of undress are discovered? I'm sure that's going to come out soon.

Soon? Try 3,000 to 4,000 BC, if not way earlier.

It's still undesirable, in any media format.

closetgeek
2010-Apr-28, 01:16 PM
Taken from this week's "This is True" - apparently the lawyer has started releasing some pictures...



update - on school spies with web cam (http://www.thisistrue.com/blog-1984_in_2010.html#update)

I can't imagine how infuriated I would be, were I one of the parents. That kid was definitely up to no good, or at the very least he was dreaming about it.

NEOWatcher
2010-Oct-12, 07:45 PM
Pennsylvania school district settles laptop privacy lawsuit (http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/10/12/pennsylvania.school.webcams.settlement/index.html?hpt=T2)

$610k. Of course, 70% of that is going to the lawyers.
$175k to one kid, and $10k to the other.

One thing that I heard on the radio but didn't see in that story (or another source that I found) was the volume involved with the one kid vs the other which accounts for the vast difference in compensation.

swampyankee
2010-Oct-13, 03:03 AM
I can't imagine how infuriated I would be, were I one of the parents. That kid was definitely up to no good, or at the very least he was dreaming about it.

He's a teenager; much of their life is committed to thinking up things that a parent would consider to fall into the category of "no good."

closetgeek
2010-Oct-13, 11:46 AM
He's a teenager; much of their life is committed to thinking up things that a parent would consider to fall into the category of "no good."

That wasn't a very good seperation of statements. I meant I would be infuriated if I found out someone was snapping pictures of my kids in their bedrooms. The second sentence should have been followed by an eye roll because it was dripping with sarcasm. Sorry for the lack of clarity.