Laptops used to spy on kids in PA school district

Official: FBI probing Pa. school webcam spy case

PHILADELPHIA – The FBI is investigating a Pennsylvania school district accused of secretly activating webcams inside students’ homes, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press on Friday.


This is a very troubling story, as computer whiz Rebecca Mercuri explains here:


Don’t know if you’ve been following the goings-on in PA with the “free” laptops that the school district was using to spy on its students (and their families). There’s been a lot of local, national, and international press on it, here’s one from the BBC:

Reason I bring this up is because about a year or so ago, I started getting a creepy feeling about the Negroponte “One Laptop Per Child” (OLPC) mission when I learned a) that the “free” computers going out to the “underdeveloped countries” came with their microphones and video cameras turned on and b) that there was heavy government involvement in who was getting the computers. Of course Nicholas (the MIT Media Lab guy, and OLPC proponent) is the brother of John Negroponte (former Ambassador to Nicaragua who is attributed to having “carried out the covert strategy of the Reagan administration” there) — Nicholas kindly refers to John as having had a life of “public service” — while both siblings seem to have an “in” with the World Bank (need I say more). I was chided by some colleagues for having raised skepticism about the monitoring capabilities of the OLPC products at a Princeton Computer Society talk a while back. Of course, the events unfolding in Lower Merion PA are now a “proof of concept” of what I’d said, and my chums are now recognizing the real danger of it all. I’m pretty leery about the whole thing.

As you might guess, one doesn’t have to give out free computers to monitor kids (and their relatives) at home — some software that sniffs out (and turns on) any attached teleconferencing devices will work just as well — but it’s sure a lot easier if you don’t have to deal with variations in equipment and setups by just handing out computers with remote monitoring capabilities. The best part of the PA case was when the jelly beans the kid was eating were determined to be “drugs” by the school snoopers. Harrumph.

One has to wonder what else is going on that we should be suspicious of as computers become ubiquitous — it’s a CLASSIC Trojan Horse, and I don’t mean viral! All “gift horses” should be looked well into the mouth (and not taken home), I say.


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