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School Shows Off Webcam Spying Capabilities

One of the stranger bits of news that we've been tracking lately has dealt with the Lower Merion School District and its use of monitoring software in the Apple MacBooks that it has distributed to 2,300 of its students.

Student Blake J. Robbins is suing Lower Merion School District in Philadelphia allegedly remotely activating his webcam. The remote activation of his webcam was exposed when student Blake J. Robbins was disciplined for "improper behavior in his home" by the Vice Principal, who provided a photo taken by the webcam as evidence.

The school confirmed that it has the ability to control the webcams, but that the capability has since been disabled in response to the recent issue.

It seems that the Lower Merion schools aren't the only one with the spying capabilities that were apparently used in the current class action lawsuit. A reader of Boing Boing pointed out that PBS aired a documentary a few weeks ago called "Digital Nation." In it, vice-principle of Intermediate School 339, Bronx, NY, Dan Ackerman showed how he's able to remotely monitor students through webcam.

Ackerman demonstrates the webcam spying ability: "They don't even realize we are watching," "I always like to mess with them and take a picture," and "9 times out of 10, THEY DUCK OUT OF THE WAY."

Oddly there are no questions regarding student privacy, which is likely how the recent class action lawsuit came about.

Click here to watch the video at PBS. Skip to around 4:36 to see the remote webcam monitoring.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • gekko668
    I want to know how long have this been going on?
    Reply
  • haunted one
    "Ackerman demonstrates the webcam spying ability: "They don't even realize we are watching," "I always like to mess with them and take a picture,"


    I must be terribly mistaken, but is he saying this with.......PRIDE?
    Reply
  • nforce4max
    Child porn!! This is big brother at work. The staff that used this needs to be fired.
    Reply
  • sceen311
    If only I had one of these laptops, that vice principle douche would get many good views of the full moon.
    Reply
  • Ummm, these are school owned laptops being used in school. The school is remotely accessing this laptops to make sure the students are working. The students are not supposed to have this camera application open (as he says they are using it for checking their appearance). So rather then giving them say a detention he orders their computer to take a picture. This is meant to get the students back to work rather then goofing off (which he says works). Why is this a bad thing?
    Reply
  • ezodagrom
    Ummm, these are school owned laptops being used in school. The school is remotely accessing this laptops to make sure the students are working. The students are not supposed to have this camera application open (as he says they are using it for checking their appearance). So rather then giving them say a detention he orders their computer to take a picture. This is meant to get the students back to work rather then goofing off (which he says works). Why is this a bad thing?
    was disciplined for "improper behavior in his home"
    When they're checking what the students do AT HOME, something is definitely wrong.
    Reply
  • Mousemonkey
    Ummm, these are school owned laptops being used in school. The school is remotely accessing this laptops to make sure the students are working. The students are not supposed to have this camera application open (as he says they are using it for checking their appearance). So rather then giving them say a detention he orders their computer to take a picture. This is meant to get the students back to work rather then goofing off (which he says works). Why is this a bad thing?
    If your daughter had one of these laptops and pictures of her in various states of undress appeared on the internet how would you feel about it then?
    Reply
  • ben850
    put tape over the eye :P
    Reply
  • builderbobftw
    I wonder what he was doing? *Snicker*
    Reply
  • False_Dmitry_II
    ezodagromWhen they're checking what the students do AT HOME, something is definitely wrong.
    Sure, but those all looked like not at home to me. You'd go use a real fracking mirror otherwise.
    Reply