Last week Neowin reported on a shocking case at the Lower Merion High School district in Pennsylvania, U.S. The FBI confirmed later that they will be opening up a criminal investigation over the matter.
Students issued laptops in the aforementioned district were given computers that could have their webcams remotely activated at the will of the school administrators. The practice had been in place for the past 14 months but was only discovered recently when a school punished a student named Blake Robbins for "improper behavior in his home," with the Vice Principal even providing a photo as evidence. A class action suit has been filed against the school, on behalf of all students issued the laptops.
The School issued a response to the recent reports and stated "the security feature 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." The school say they remotely activated webcams 42 times to find missing student laptops in the past 14 months, but never did so to spy on students, as the lawsuit claims. Dr. Christopher McGinley, Superintendent at the Lower Merion School District also said the school was sorry for its actions. "We regret if this situation has caused any concern or inconvenience among our students and families," he said.
Boing Boing reports that an example of how schools monitor their students with laptop webcams has been discovered. US broadcasting service, PBS, published a documentary entitled "How Google saved a school". The piece contains a segment from Assistant Principal Dan Ackerman at Intermediate School 339 Bronx, NY. Ackerman describes how he can enable webcams remotely and check what applications and websites are being visited by students. It seems the children in this particular school are aware teachers can remotely monitor them but it's not clear if they are aware of when this monitoring takes place. Regardless, the video raises some concerns over the technology and whether it's a violation of the students privacy.