Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Was Big Brother watching our kids – in McCracken County Schools?

We’ve commented already on the big scandal in Pennsylvania where a school district allegedly used special software in loaner computers to spy on students at home.

The software in question allowed remote access of the laptops’ webcams, and, perhaps, internal microphones, as well.

Now, it turns out the same sort of software was loaded in over 2,000 computers issued to students in McCracken County schools (subscription).

Paducah Sun reporter Bill Bartleman reports that the school district is removing the software, but even that process raises questions. The district is doing that by remote control, as well. Clearly, if the district can remove the software on its own – remotely – then it probably can install something else remotely, on its own, as well.

The existence of such software places tremendous responsibilities – and temptations – on the IT department in a school district. How would anyone know if a rogue IT person decided to do a little recreational snooping, say maybe on the laptop of the school prom queen?

For that matter, with schools loaning computers to teachers, it might be that cute young teacher just out of college who is getting some unwanted attention, too.

Or, if school loaners went to local board members, maybe they have been getting a little unauthorized monitoring just to see how they plan to vote on some pending issue.

In any event, the ‘snoopware’ issue in Pennsylvania may be a problem elsewhere – like right here in Kentucky.

It’s going to be very interesting to see what, if any, laws were violated and how this all plays out in general.

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