It’s the start of yet another lazy Saturday, so let’s make things a little more interesting with a side dish of outrage. A 15-year-old student in Pennsylvania has accused his high school of spying on him using a school-supplied MacBook. The school had accused the boy “inappropriate behavior” that it found him engaged in via the built-in Webcam. Lawsuits are flying, as you might imagine.
The school didn’t say what activity the boy was engaged in, and it doesn’t really matter. He could have been gacked out of his mind, but the school has no right to spy on him in his own home. If you think it does, then let’s get you a time machine so you can live under the thumb of the Stasi.
The school-issued MacBook has a sort of security feature that allows an administrator to remotely activate the built-in Webcam without the user knowing. It’s ostensibly a security feature, but, should the boy’s allegations pan out, then I think we can say the school acted way out of bounds.
Now, the MacBook is 100 percent owned by the school, so it’s well within its rights to set the rules. “No Torrents, no LimeWire, no YouTube,” etc. (Who uses LimeWire, by the way? It’s always in the top 10 downloads of the likes of versiontracker and whatnot.) The school also reserved the right to search the MacBook’s hard drive, so if it found a whole bunch of DVD rips on there, well, that’s not allowed.
Remotely activating the Webcam to snap photos without the student knowing? That’s clearly an egregious violation of all sorts of privacy rights, and may well be on the wrong side of wiretapping laws, too. So it’s nonsense left, right, and center.
Not that emotions should have any place in deciding matters of law, but imagine your child, or you yourself if you’re a student, coming home and finding out that that laptop your school have him was spying on him. You’d be pretty ticked off, I imagine.
The school has denied any wrongdoing, and has since disabled that remote control feature.
My initial reaction was, what a wealthy school district, buying MacBooks for its kids! Surely a less expensive netbook is all a high school student would need?