Lower Merion School District employees activated the web cameras and tracking software on laptops they gave to high school students about 80 times in the past two school years, snapping nearly 56,000 images that included photos of students, pictures inside their homes and copies of the programs or files running on their screens, district investigators have concluded.
In most of the cases, technicians turned on the system after a student or staffer reported a laptop missing and turned it off when the machine was found, the investigators determined.
But in at least five instances, school employees let the Web cams keep clicking for days or weeks after students found their missing laptops, according to the review. Those computers – programmed to snap a photo and capture a screen shot every 15 minutes when the machine was on – fired nearly 13,000 images back to the school district servers.
If authorities have the ability to behave badly, some of them always will. Which is why stuff like this is especially bad:
The MPAA and RIAA have submitted their master plan for enforcing copyright to the new Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Richard Esguerra points out, it’s a startlingly distopian work of science fiction. The entertainment industry calls for:
- spyware on your computer that detects and deletes infringing materials;
- mandatory censorware on all Internet connections to interdict transfers of infringing material;
- border searches of personal media players, laptops and thumb-drives;
- international bullying to force other countries to implement the same policies;
- and free copyright enforcement provided by Fed cops and agencies (including the Department of Homeland Security!).
The Fourth Amendment has been gutted pretty extensively over the past generation, but if “unreasonable search and seizure” has any meaning at all, it should mean that neither the government nor private corporations should be legally empowered to constantly monitor our activities through our own computers.
I’ve thought for a while that the coming divide in our politics is not going to be one of conservatism versus liberalism, but about authoritarianism versus a politics of individual liberty. News like this goes to reinforce that belief, as does the acrimony of our current political climate in the US. More on the latter, later, but I’ll reiterate the main point: it’s a bad idea to give authorities unlimited surveillance powers because they will always, always be abused.