Home Your IT Home IT US school spies on students at home

A US school has been accused of spying on a student at his home via the in-built webcam in the school-provided laptop.

There were tales and rumours around the student body at Harriton High School, part of the Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania, that the webcam green light on their school-supplied MacBooks would turn on (to indicate a live camera) at unexpected, random moments.

The School authorities always said that this was due to "a glitch" and that to back this up, indicated that they would never turn on the camera except for a lost or stolen machine.  A number of students didn't necessarily agree with the explanation and regularly covered the webcam with tape or chewing gum.

The Robbins family caught the school out in a big lie.

On November 11th 2009, their 15-year-old son Blake was disciplined by his school's assistant principal Lindy Matsko as he had "engaged in improper behaviour in [his] home."  The 'fun' part was that Matsko provided a photograph of the improper behaviour taken by the webcam in Blake's school-provided laptop.

Comments from other students in various press reports suggest that Blake was doing what 15-year-old boys regularly do in the privacy of their bedrooms.  But whatever he was doing is totally beside the point.

Let me put this straight.  There is NO reason that could possibly justify any person from the school viewing whatever could be seen from the laptop's webcam at the home of the student.

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David Heath

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David Heath has over 25 years experience in the IT industry, specializing particularly in customer support, security and computer networking. Heath has worked previously as head of IT for The Television Shopping Network, as the network and desktop manager for Armstrong Jones (a major funds management organization) and has consulted into various Australian federal government agencies (including the Department of Immigration and the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence). He has also served on various state, national and international committees for Novell Users International; he was also the organising chairman for the 1994 Novell Users' Conference in Brisbane. Heath is currently employed as an Instructional Designer, building technical training courses for industrial process control systems.

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