Privacy advocates are outraged by allegations that a Philadelphia school district has been monitoring students at home through the webcams on school-issued laptops. The charges are in a class-action lawsuit filed by Michael Robbins, after the school busted his son, Blake, for "improper behavior in his home" — proving their case with laptop-snapped photos. Is the Lower Merion School District playing a "creepy" game of Big Brother? (Watch a CBS report about the school spying on its students)
This sounds pervy and upsetting: These "purely horrifying" allegations are "about as creepy as they come," says Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing. "I often have the laptop in the room while I'm getting dressed," and I'm sure the Lower Merion kids do, too. Even setting aside the potential for underage Peeping Tom-ism, though, the school is failing the kids by teaching them their "privacy is worthless."
"School used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home"
Let's not judge till we hear the school's side: Spying on students at home would mean "serious penalties" for the school district, says Jacqui Cheng in Ars Technica. But so far we only have Michael Robbins' word that the school took remote snapshots from the webcams. It seems just as likely that Blake Robbins took "questionable" photos of himself, which then fell into administrators' hands.
"Parents: school used webcam to spy on our kid at home"
It's creepy, but educational: No, "schools have been doing this for years," says Alex Pasternack at Motherboard, although only at school — "creepily spy[ing] on a student in his freaking home" is a new low. But even that's not all bad. "Maybe, in some twisted way, principals are using their network of spy webcams to teach a little object lesson" to their students: there's always a chance you're being watched.
"This is how principals spy on students through their webcams"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- Scottish independence is another financial crisis waiting to happen
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- Your literary playlist: A guide to the music of Haruki Murakami
Subscribe to the Week