Friday, February 19, 2010

School Used Laptop Webcams to View Students at Home

This one goes in the utterly stupid corner.  Utterly Stupid.  Utterly Wrong.  Utterly deserving of a lawsuit.

When we think about students who don't know how to do basic research, maybe we should look at who's educating them?  If school districts and educators think it is all right to install and turn on electronic surveillance devices, in this situation the webcams installed on the school-provided laptops, to observe students' behavior while out of school -- well, they haven't done their research.  To make this even worse, they never even informed the students or parents about this monitoring capability.  Now they're being sued.

They should be sued.  Whoever signed off on this and whoever used it should lose their jobs.  Let's face it, I don't always agree with the ACLU on some privacy issues.  I wish there were more surveillance cameras in my apartment building because of the vandalism and other issues we have to put up with caused by other people who live there and/or their friends or people that they just let into the building who don't belong there.  But that doesn't mean I would agree to cameras everywhere. 

Viewing students at home, under the premise that you are monitoring their use of the school-provided laptop, is wrong!  You can install software on the computer that would monitor where they surf, if your goal is to keep them from using the laptop to view inappropriate websites.  But you cannot simply turn on a webcam when the laptop is most likely in someone's home, to see what they're doing. 

I won't say more; I'll let others say what they think.  You can read a brief article on Boing Boing.  Or, click here for the site noting the class action lawsuit that has been filed; it has a pretty clear description of the charges filed against the school.