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  • School Uses MacBooks to Spy On Kids


    A lawsuit has been filed against a suburban Philadelphia school district accusing administrators of remotely activating the iSight cameras in school-provided MacBooks to spy on students in their homes. The school claims that it used the cameras only to determine the location of lost or stolen MacBooks, but one student was accused of selling drugs and shown a still picture taken from his iSight as evidence against him. The FBI is investigating the school.

    About 1,800 students at the Lower Merion High School (where Kobe Bryant played basketball in the 90s) and Harriton High School across town were all issued MacBooks as part of a state and federally funded "one-to-one" laptop program. Student Blake Robbins was called into the Harriton High School principal's office last November and accused of "improper behavior in his home." He was shown an image that he was told had been taken by his notebook's embedded camera. The student's parents, Michael and Holly Robbins, then went to the assistant principal and complained that the school had never told them that the camera could be activated remotely. The assistant principal told the boy's father that the school claimed the right to turn on the iSight camera "at any time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the Webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of any persons then and there using the laptop computer," according to the lawsuit.

    After the spying was revealed, the school acknowledged that it had activated students' cameras 42 times over a 14-month period, but insisted that each time it was done it was merely an attempt to locate a stolen or missing MacBook. The Robbins family accuses the school district of violating the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution as well as the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, and the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act. They are attempting to make the lawsuit a class action so that more of the 1,800 students can join in the lawsuit, which asks for unspecified monetary damages.

    The school has not released any images or described what sorts of activities were photographed, but shocked students are upset about the invasion of their privacy and wondering wht they might have been seen doing. One girl says that she kept her MacBook open at all times, including when she was getting dressed and showering, and is worried that the camera might have been activated on her MacBook at those times.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: School Uses MacBooks to Spy On Kids started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 61 Comments
    1. mikerlx's Avatar
      mikerlx -
      First, I think it was cool for a school to trust stundents to provide macbooks of all laptops then its another for untrustworthy spying.
    1. Nehal3m's Avatar
      Nehal3m -
      Actually, I think that the district is really cool about handing MacBooks to students, but then, I guess it sort of evens out by lack of privacy. Unless you could find out the program they installed and get rid of it.
    1. bhz1's Avatar
      bhz1 -
      I live in the Philly area. The Lower Merion school district is in one of the most affluent districts in the state. There is a great deal of brain power and money to back it as well as a very involved group of parents. It will be very interesting to see this pan out.
    1. hitman10's Avatar
      hitman10 -
      This is disgusting. They should be sued. Who are they to remotely view a students isight? That sounds ****ing petafile.
    1. 1shuttle1's Avatar
      1shuttle1 -
      I live in the Philly area. The Lower Merion school district is in one of the most affluent districts in the state. There is a great deal of brain power and money to back it as well as a very involved group of parents. It will be very interesting to see this pan out.


      I also live in this area. This is definately the high rent district. I am not surprized at all that these kids would be given Mac books. Kind of sick to think that some pervert could have access to some young girls bedroom. U hope they throw the book at the people behind this. They could use something like find my phone in MobileMe if they needed to locate a stolen notebook. You would have to be a moron to not think this was going to lead to a lawsuit.
    1. Raptors's Avatar
      Raptors -
      First if all...SAY WHAT? They get MacBooks from their school?!

      Lol also that's just wrong. I hope the teachers weren't Pervs
    1. andrewe13's Avatar
      andrewe13 -
      I went to this high school, graduated only a few years ago - Gonna be interesting to see how this plays out. That assistant principal is an idiot
    1. Melech518's Avatar
      Melech518 -
      This is going on in private schools all over the country. I know for a fact that 3 major private schools in Tampa have spy software on their students iPhones, BlackBerry's, and Computers
    1. lolcats1's Avatar
      lolcats1 -
      Two things you need to understand here.

      1. privacy is not a constitutional right, you have the anti-federalists to thanks for that.

      2. how much do you wanna bet the guy was jerkin off to asian porn on his school laptop?
    1. ZOMGVTEK's Avatar
      ZOMGVTEK -
      Tape over the camera solves it in seconds.

      And wouldn't the light turn on? If not, I want to know how they got the camera to work without the green light turning on...
    1. Custos's Avatar
      Custos -
      1. I "can't" believe it...well, then again I can. What else do you expect from the government?

      2. If we had an entirely private school system this crap would be dealt with harshly. They would be put out of business. Sure, some bureaucrats may get fired but more will take their place.

      3. I hope the citizens win. Even though it will mean money likely coming out of the district's budget which means layoffs and other budgetary cutbacks. Oh well, they should have thought before violating the Constitution. Putting a clause in an obscure "Terms of Use" document doesn't exempt them, essentially a government agency, from the Supreme Law of the Land.
    1. lolcats1's Avatar
      lolcats1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Custos View Post
      1. I "can't" believe it...well, then again I can. What else do you expect from the government?
      this is a private school. this has absolutely nothing to do with the government. ever seen a public school hand out macbooks?
    1. Stealth1029's Avatar
      Stealth1029 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Melech518 View Post
      This is going on in private schools all over the country. I know for a fact that 3 major private schools in Tampa have spy software on their students iPhones, BlackBerry's, and Computers
      Question: Wouldn't spy software on an iPhone require some sort of task running in the background? The iPhones would have to be jailbroken with either some sort of app that runs backgrounded on startup and sends data back to the school, or maybe something similar to Veency.

      Quote Originally Posted by ZOMGVTEK View Post
      Tape over the camera solves it in seconds.

      And wouldn't the light turn on? If not, I want to know how they got the camera to work without the green light turning on...
      From Endgadget,
      Quote Originally Posted by Engadget View Post
      Then again, some purported Lower Merion students just emailed Gizmodo and claimed that their MacBooks' green webcam lights went on at random times, but they were told by IT support that it was just a technical glitch.
    1. Melech518's Avatar
      Melech518 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Stealth1029 View Post
      Question: Wouldn't spy software on an iPhone require some sort of task running in the background? The iPhones would have to be jailbroken with either some sort of app that runs backgrounded on startup and sends data back to the school, or maybe something similar to Veency.



      From Endgadget,
      It is called FlexiSpy. Google it
    1. goodgod2's Avatar
      goodgod2 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ZOMGVTEK View Post
      Tape over the camera solves it in seconds.

      And wouldn't the light turn on? If not, I want to know how they got the camera to work without the green light turning on...
      I think you didn't read the article carefully, the student said they didn't know about the spying, who knows maybe they did know, and about the light.... its called spying, you think that the school is that stupid to not make a program that work with the light off?
    1. lolcats1's Avatar
      lolcats1 -
      wait a minute guys i have a legitimate question. i have an 08 macbook with a built in webcam, how do i know when it's active?
    1. JedixJarf's Avatar
      JedixJarf -
      Quote Originally Posted by lolcats1 View Post
      this is a private school. this has absolutely nothing to do with the government. ever seen a public school hand out macbooks?
      Public schools give out macbooks all the time.
    1. awesomeSlayer's Avatar
      awesomeSlayer -
      Quote Originally Posted by lolcats1 View Post
      wait a minute guys i have a legitimate question. i have an 08 macbook with a built in webcam, how do i know when it's active?
      When the green LED is lit up. I'm guessing. I have a MacBook Pro.

      That is just wrong. It's like they are stalkers.
    1. ajl917's Avatar
      ajl917 -
      Quote Originally Posted by JedixJarf View Post
      Public schools give out macbooks all the time.
      Ive seen them be used a lot at public schools now, but not many schools give each student one of them. I just find it kind of funny that the students wouldnt have the knowledge of the webcam feature and not realize that when the light comes on, the webcam is being turned on. Im eager to find out who was really behind this and who had this brilliant idea...
    1. jadi929's Avatar
      jadi929 -
      lol big brother