back to article US school comes out fighting over webcam spy claim

The UK agency in charge of IT in UK schools has insisted there is no chance of the government's free laptops program exposing the bedroom activities of British students. The calming words for British parents comes after a US school district was sued for allegedly spying on a student in his bedroom via the webcam on his school …


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  1. The Metal Cod

    "It Couldn't Happen Here" - Oh Really?

    Add scope creep and this "government's" obsession with control freakery and yes it could happen. Remember that this is the "government" which gutlessly stood by and allowed BT & Phorm to monitor and profile thousands of internet users' data. This is also the government that has dropped plans to give the ICO the teeth and cojones it needs.

    It can happen here.

  2. Mike Cardwell

    Where's the rest of the story?

    "This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever."

    That's quite a clear claim that they have only ever used the technology when a laptop has been "lost, stolen or missing". So in this case, which of those three was it? Either they're flat out lying, or this story is missing some very important information. Perhaps the truth is less interesting.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You couldn't make it up.

    Seriously?.......They did this?........For real?....... And expected to get away with it?....... Seriously?..For real serious!?!?! Your'e joking right?

    It reads like the plot of some kids drama series.

  4. Niall 1

    Slight Contradiction

    So they have an image of the student taken using the spy kit, which is only used when laptops are stolen or lost. So was the laptop reported stolen or lost? I assume not, so this make their statement complete and utter tosh.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever."

    So was the laptop lost, stolen or missing? No, I thought not.

  6. ian 22
    Big Brother

    What is the lesson here?

    What we have learned is Big Brother is watching. And that learning is a life-long process.

    The school's defense is that the camera is only ever used to locate stolen lappies. So had the laptop in question been reported stolen? I suspect not...

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Lost or stolen?

    "This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever."

    So which was it? Lost, stolen, or missing? Evidently it was found again - sitting at the student's desk.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I love the way we constantly get closer to Orwell's vision. On a slightly more serious note, potentially, couldn't the School face criminal charges from the production of child pornography? Assuming the webcam captured said acts.

  9. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    If There Is...

    ...a camera built into the laptop, it would be trivial to include remote activation in "courseware" that the school provides.

    Ditto url tracking and keylogging for that matter.

    When I went to school, cameras still required film, and computers were something i read about in sci-fi books and built for science fair.

  10. Eddy Ito
    Big Brother

    Easy fix

    Gaffer tape to the rescue once again.

  11. Number6


    I leave my webcam unplugged on my desktop when I'm not using it, or pointing at the wall, and have been known to leave something over the webcam on the laptop. Of course, it's harder to do something about the built-in microphone.

  12. Peter Clarke 1
    Big Brother

    Fight back

    Are the students too technology-dependant not to put a lens cap on the camera and a blob of blu-tak over the mic? I believe most laptops also come with an OFF button.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Yes but ...

      ... it may be that the laptop was providing the ...errr... stimulus for the controversial behaviour, so it couldn't be switched off at the time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: Yes but

        I don't think he was wanking. I recon he was making a joint on his bed or something and just happened to be left on.

        1. Dan 10


          ....because if he had been surfing for pr0n, it probably would have gone via the schools proxy server and they could have disciplined him via the url logs.

          Yes, he could possibly have bypassed the proxy, but if he was that savvy, he probably would have covered the webcam as well.

          Hope the school have the book thrown at them for this.

    2. Someone Else Silver badge

      For those of us in the Colonies

      What the hey is "blu-tak"?

      1. lpopman
        Thumb Up

        titular thingy

        Blu-Tak is a kind of adhesive putty that is reusable. Generally used to put posters up on bedroom walls or office walls in a non-destructive way :)

        There are more uses for it but that's the main one

  13. Gordon is not a Moron

    To paraphrase the West Wing..

    "you want Government that's just small enough to fit inside your bedroom"

    fiction meet reality.

  14. Law
    Big Brother


    "There are no further details of what this improper behaviour might constitute – and readers must draw their own conclusions as to the sort of behaviour a teenage school student might indulge in, if left alone in his bedroom with a PC."

    One would assume the improper behaviour of a teenage boy with a laptop would be something daft like doing homework or tidying their room, rather than doing the required right of passage - surfing for porn.

    I'm assuming if kids can get themselves arrested for texting boyf/girlf pics of themselves in the nookie, under naughty child images laws... then the persons who set this up, and also the persons who operated the spyware can be arrested for some sort of child abuse law too... should be pretty cut and dry, why would they need to go on about 4th amendments, stick em on the register and be done with it! :)

    1. James Butler


      According to a post from one of his classmates, the student in question is a well-known weed smoker and general party animal. Apparently, the best guess floating around his school is that the weed smoking triggered the need to snap a pic.

      Apparently, also, the teachers whose students use those laptops are *required* by the administration to spend part of their workday monitoring the webcams and snapping pictures of anything they believe to be against the Acceptable Use Policy (which, as noted in the article, contains not a hint of this remote observation practice).

      So, this is not just about a single webcam photo, but even more ludicrous, it is about a school system that requires its employees to spy on the students in their homes for at least a couple of hours each day. In this instance, a photo was taken. But what about all of the rest of those hours where no photo was taken? The employee was just "watching". Uggh.

      And how much of an idiot is that assistant principal who exposed the whole scheme by publicly announcing their capability?!? "We don't do that ... and, oh yeah, your home dope smoking that we caught in this webcam photo is improper." Dork.

  15. cs94njw

    A small point that might be worth mentioning...

    ... the laptop wasn't registered as stolen. Do they monitor all the logs just in case they don't recognize the user?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I work for a home access provider

    And I can tell you there is nothing in our packages that can do this.

    All and I mean ALL installed programs must be reported to BECTA and they approve all of them.

  17. Not Fred31

    school guilty of making child pornography?

    If the webcam was involved and if the improper behaviour was... well, what it might have been...

  18. AndyS


    So the laptops come with "a tracking facility that would be used in case a laptop was stolen...This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop."

    How does that square with the case in question? Inappropriate behaviour of a student in their bedroom doesn't really equate to a stolen laptop, does it?

    Something's being missed here.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      Nothing missing...

      What's happening is that the school district is setting up the person who actually used the laptop's camera and reported the 'inappropriate' behavior for violating stated guidelines.

      The statement from the School Board does nothing but set up a defense and limit its liability.

      If the student was under the age of 17 and the 'inappropriate' behavior involved exposing his 'naughty bits', then the school administrator would be guilty of child pornography and would be forced to register as a sex offender.

      It could be that the student was sitting in front of his laptop, and lit up a bong or something. We don't know...

      The bottom line is that the school district is in very hot water on this one. Also it sets up other potential lawsuits or a class action lawsuit by other parents....

      So by making this statement, the School District will toss the school employee under the bus unless the school employee can show that they were directed to do this by the school district itself.

      Fail because there are other less invasive security measures that would accomplish the same thing.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop."

    Uh, guess not, which is why the parents are suing. If my kids ever get a school issued laptop, I think a spot of duct tape would prevent this.

  20. James 5
    Big Brother

    Duct Tape...

    .. over aforementioned web cam would seem to be a low tech, low cost, solution to "spy by video"!

    1. LinkOfHyrule
      Thumb Up

      I agree

      I always use duct tape while engaged in improper behaviour, don't know about you!

  21. Garret

    Minor Corrections

    It is spelled "Lower Merion" with one "r", and it is just outside Philadelphia, not IN Philadephia. Minor points, but my home city gets enough bad press.

  22. Andus McCoatover

    improper behavior in his home??

    Er, the last 3 words are the most damning in this matter. In his home, FFS!.

    OK, if he was 'cracking one off' (normal for a teenage lad) - but left the computer on - and was monitored without his knowledge, that's likely to be (UK-wise) assault. Plus, it'd be the most lucrative wank in Christendom, given the US's love for litigation.

    It does say an image from the webcam was captured, doesn't mention any website he was visiting. He might just have got over-excited by the sheer beauty of calculus, for all we know.

    Now, as the PDF states he was a minor, have we got paedophilia, too?

    Let's bung the DMCA law into the mix. Like pizza-dough, it seems it can be stretched as far as you want.

    Item 26 in the suit is very concerning. "Defendants...have never disclosed..ability to capture images from any location...". Was it running Windows, by any chance? That means any Tom, Dick and Harry conceivably could, not just the education authority.

    The plaintiffs have requested jury trial. It probably won't come to that, there'l be an 'out-of-court' settlement, conditional on the usual gagging order, therefore ensuring "Justice must be done, and must be seen to be done" is a complete load of bollox.

    Oh, this one's gonna be fun to watch!

  23. philatonian


    Just FYI, it's Lynne Matsko, not Lindy Matsko, and Lower Merion is a suburb of Philadelphia, not in Philadelphia.

    It's so sad that another Philly area native has set the bar even lower than it already was. What's even sadder is that it's made news internationally. Lynne Matsko should be jailed, if anything for stupidity. I'm still amazed this is only a civil matter and that the police aren't involved and no one has been arrested. This is creepy and borderline predatory. The school and all school employees involved should be charged with conspiracy, invasion of privacy, and child endangerment. Objectively, how is this any different than the creepy perv next door hiding a video camera in the neighbor's bedroom? Throw the book at them and set an example. Technology is getting creepy enough as it is without us having to worry about our teachers and principles watching our kids in the bedroom.

  24. Jamie Kitson


    "This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever."

    Surely that's just what happened, unless it wasn't the boy's laptop.

  25. RW

    Simple analysis

    Whoever decided to use this feature is simply stupid and not clued in to privacy issues.

    From what's been said in the press ("inappropriate behavior"), the school board clearly used this feature to simply spy on a student. Denials are merely lies.

    Further, what the student does on his own time is his business and not the schools. Schools may be in loco parentis but only during school hours - or so it seems to me.

    Stupidity and dishonesty and control-freakism. (Just like NuLabour.) That's all. Nothing more to see. Move along folks.

  26. S C

    How is it...

    ...the school's responsibility to punish a student for 'improper behaviour' not only outside school hours and off of school property, but IN THE STUDENT'S OWN HOME? The sneaky use of the web-cam is just the means to an end.

    Or am I missing something obvious about school authorities in the U.S.?

    1. philatonian

      Schools policing students

      You're not missing anything at all. It is not the right or obligation of the school to police students off school property. School administrators aren't cops, and obviously don't know enough about policing to understand privacy rights and civil liberties. A student can be suspended, expelled, etc. for being charged with illegal activity, but only when charged through the proper legal channels - i.e. charged, tried, and convicted.

      Public schools in the US have been increasingly pushing this line and it's getting scary. What is considered "inappropriate" by a public school is technically held to the same standard as law, being only what is illegal. More and more cases of children being expelled for personal behaviors that fall within the bounds of legality are cropping up. Recently a teenage girl was charged as a sex offender after her school found out she sent a picture of herself in a bra to a male colleague who was also a minor.

  27. Christoph
    Big Brother

    How many other children were spied on?

    How many times was this spyware used on the children before they happened to find a picture that they wanted to take action about? They didn't just chance on it the first time, it must have been a *lot*.

    Which makes complete nonsense of their claim that they only use it if the laptop is reported missing.

    And what the hell right have the school got to decide that what a student does at home in his own bedroom is "improper behavior"? It is none of their damn business. They didn't cite 'criminal' behaviour, or anything else they might have stretched to a justification, just 'improper'.

    Gods help a country where a child may never ever experiment with anything that some arrogant adult busy-body might find 'improper'. What, they might even discover what bits of their own body look like? How terrible! They ought to be kept in utter ignorance right up until the complete disaster of their wedding night!


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @How many other children were spied on?

      Only a small minority were spied upon, the cute sexy ones! Come in to my study Sarah, you've been a very naughy girl!

      Seriously, the next thing is the police will be involved, this is way beyond Stephen Conroy stuff. BTW, someone get a condemnation from Australian minister Stephen Conroy (he of monitor the internet of every Australian fame), if he refuses to condemn it that will show parents the nature of the man. If he does condemn it, it will show them his hypocritical nature.

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. James Butler

      Too much effort

      Reformatting is too much work, and won't get you past the Acceptable Use Policy you signed when you received your school-owned kit. It's particularly noticeable when you return the kit to the school at the end of the year.

      No, the simplest answer is: Live CD ... pick a flavor (Windoze, 'Nix, whatever) ... no logs, no traces ... no violation of the agreement ... and no nasty little bugs running in the background.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    very, very sly answer from BECTA

    They're actually talking about the computers at home initiative

    It's a government run scheme, whereby students within certain financial criteria qualify for a laptop. AKA underpriviliged.

    When I was sysadmin at a school, we opted out of this initially, as we didn't want the extra administrative ball-ache we assumed would come with, and I suspect quite a few other schools did the same, because they quickly modified it so that the school itself would have no responsability over the laptops handed out.

    All we had to do was identify the students that qualified under the criteria. (confidentially and discretely, of course. We didn't want to mark them out as the "poor kids").

    The scheme then provided the pre-configured laptops, a 3G wifi connection, and even a tech support number for the student/family to call in case they had problems, so we as a school bore no support costs.

    This was enough to sweeten the deal for us, and we opted in. Although we were never forced to support these items, I did on rare occasions deal with them, and can say with absolute confidence that those laptops were indeed provided without any form of Big Brother spyware on them.

    But there's nothing stopping a school in the UK from providing their own IT equipment to students to to take home, which is what we also did. We provided all the 6th form students with Samsung Q1 tablet PCs, which they were able to take home.

    Again, we didn't put anything particulary sinister on those machines as they were more a symbol of trust and responsibility (which suprisingly worked out rather well, even if the samsungs performance didn't)

    But compare and contrast, if you will, what we put on our student desktops:

    These are the 2 most commonly used products in UK schools (I think, the latter appears to have changed its name) and as you can see from the feature lists, they are pretty intrusive.

    Before any parent starts objecting, I'll first point out that your "little angel" is inevitably and systematically trying to access a whole slew of of innapropriate material, trying to break into their friends or teachers resources, or simply no getting on with their work cause they're playing flash games.

    This software is absolutely catagorically required within the classroom. Without it the teacher loses all control. Because of that nearly all schools have this type of software in one form or another.

    So what we have is schools by default owning monitoring software, and the ability to issue their own IT equipment. I can personally say I wouldn't have dreamed of putting camera monitoring software on students take-home machines, and common sense would dictate that no school would want to put itself in such a vulnerable position.

    There was one occasion I gave a teacher an ex-student machine, and forgot to rename it. Because of its name, the next Impero update snared his computer, and to my horror, the students in one classroom were breifly shown a thumbnail of his desktop while he was working on some confidentail documents.

    The text wasn't readable, and the client very quickly removed, but mistakes can happen.

  30. Christoph

    Management speak

    "The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever."

    How do they know?

    What access controls did they have in place? Who knew the access codes, and how were those secured?

    How often was this facility used and for what purpose? What is shown in their detailed usage logs of this?

    They did of course keep such logs? After all, nobody with the slightest sense would set up such an intrusive system without proper controls, would they?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Score one more for "The Man"

    While I sympathize with the school district's plight (I am sure that there would be all kinds of fuss if students were using their school-provided laptops to surf for porn or "sexting" their significant others), this is just creepy.

    So some kid was probably pleasuring himself (maybe in conjunction with surfing for porn on this school laptop) and the school district thought that taking pictures of this would be OK? Great thinking brainiacs, maybe you should go back to school yourselves!!

    For future reference, remind me to tape a piece of foam rubber over the camera and destroy the built in mic in any free laptops me and my loved ones might receive in the future. I'll be happy to remove the foam rubber and plug in a peripheral mic if we actually need that functionality for any WebEx's or other activities that require that kind of I/O.

    1. thejynxed

      Built-in Mics

      You don't need to destroy it. A U.S. dime-nickel's thickness of poster putty over the microphone perforations will suffice to make conversation unintelligible.

      You can also disable the microphone in your audio settings, for instance. You can probably even disable it or the part of the driver that uses it in Device Manager if you're using some version of Windows.

      I know in the *Nix OSes, you can certainly disable it. Macs will be a tad more difficult I believe. Apple doesn't like users mucking about with hardware settings.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Hang on, WTF?

      All this talk of destroying built-in mics and/or taping stuff over the mic holes...

      Can't you just buy some dirt cheap headphones, rip off the headphones leaving only the jack plug, and put that into the mic socket? On *every* laptop I've ever owned, doing that switches out the internal microphone. It'd be pretty easy to test, too.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Lots of people pointing out that the feature was mis-used...

    "This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop."

    "However, what startled and then outraged Blake’s parents was the evidence provided: a photo of their son engaged in the "improper behaviour" cited, taken not on any friend’s camera – but by the webcam on the free school laptop."

    That improper behaviour... using a stolen laptop perhaps?

    Yes it's creepy, but as with most OMG news stories, nowhere near enough information.

  33. Joe User

    Quick fix

    Nothing at a piece of black electrical tape can't take care of....

    I hope the school gets the sh*t sued out of them. There is no excuse for this sort of behavior.

  34. philatonian

    Not a Stolen Laptop

    It wasn't a stolen laptop. Also, the Lower Merion school district provides Macbooks to all students regardless of financial criteria. In the U.S. public schools are funded primarily by local county taxes, not state or federal, and Lower Merion is a very wealthy township.

  35. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    No thanks

    I don't know why everyone assumes he was wanking it. He could have been smoking a fatty instead. Still, I do hope they get a large cash settlement, obviously it's most improper to be using the computer to monitor students in their own homes.

    Personally, I graduated before the schools had any of these offers. But I would definitely turn them down -- a computer I cannot install my own software on? A computer that spies on me and reports back what I'm doing to the school, while I'm at home? No thanks!

  36. Anonymous Coward

    so the school is guilty of child pron...?

    or is that a pedo' crime that they are guilty of.

    as they are taking unautorised photos of a minor..

    doing what comes naturally to a minor with a internet connection,,,,aka fapping! whilst indulging in perusing the WWW of pron.

    utter fail in persuing thier hidden agenda of watching hawt girlies online at home.

  37. Stephen Bungay
    Big Brother

    Open-mike, openweb-cam...

    Never say anything around a microphone that you don't want recorded, never do anything in front of a laptop that has a webcam aimed at you.

    A small piece of electrical tape will take care of the camera. Mind the Mic though.

  38. Kibble

    @ philatonian

    I'm amazed at the lack of arrests in this case also, but perhaps due to the number of perps involved, the sheer number of which may overwhelm the local gaols storage, is a factor. Also the fact that this may shut down the school.

    I personally think that everyone with access to the remote camera system should be placed on a monitored sexual predator list and banned from having anything to do with children. Perhaps issue them the same computers they gave the students so they might be able to search for jobs.

    On further thought, due to the economic situation, with a greater than10% unemployment rate, any school shutdown would be for a very short period of time if it comes to that.

    Fail for the lack of concern by local law.

  39. KaD

    It's going to get hot...

    Oh wow... Knowing how litigation happy the U.S. is these school administrators are going to burn for this one if it ever reaches trial. The prosecution may not even want to offer them a deal on this as it is one of those cases they can prove a point about and looks great on a resume.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Couldn't happen in the UK...?

    UK schools are run by complete drama queens who ram kids full of meaningless rhetoric about them being ambassadors for the school and anything bad they do anywhere reflects badly on the school which would be just tragic. Sad thing is they actually believe their own BS so much that they'll jump at the chance to punish kids for what they do outside the school gates, if they can get proof.

    Well now that every kid has the internet, getting proof is easy. The daemon head master can earn his £100k a year by searching kids' Myspace pages looking for things he can punish them for. "Is that a beer in your hand Johnny? You know you shouldn't drink, we don't want you to turn into some kind of weirdo" says the man who went looking for that photo on the internet.

    Maybe if these control freaks spent less time lording over people and more time teaching them skills worth a damn, their behaviour would improve when they realise they have the necessary mental tools to become a happy and productive member of society. Rather than realising they've spent 5 years in secondary school learning absolutely fuck all*, and dropping out.

    * The school curriculum mostly consisting of 40% FUD about climate change, 30% FUD about community cohesion/social education whatever that is, 20% FUD about religion and 10% PE. Guaranteeing that when the time comes to find a job, they will have no marketable skills whatsoever.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Brings back memories.

      That sounds like my school. They would ban us from the local ASDA and make an effort for doing anything "dodgy" outside school. Like they would follow students to the park to make sure they weren't smoking. Also staff would routinely visit peoples social networking pages.

      My current college is just as bad. They stop us from using any type of social networking including LinkedIn even though every single speaker we have had has told us its an invaluable business tool.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Bit Daily Mail?

      My old secondary school did spout the ambassadors line, but the Head and Deputy Head had a line. If your in school uniform your an ambassador and any dodgy antics that get complained about (by police, bus drivers, residents) will be disciplined in the school. If your not in school uniform they didn't care and you could do what you want and there would be no repercussions.

      It seems a sensible line to take, especially since that's how it seems to work in the real world.

      1. Equitas

        School curriculum

        The school curriculum didn't include grammar, did it?

  41. EvilJason

    Are they stupid or what?

    There excuse is that the remote webcam feature is only for tracking stolen laptops will only fly if that is what happened here, if the kid stole the laptop maybe from another student and they used the webcam to take a picture of the person using the stolen webcam than that changes everything.

    BUT if it was his laptop then there excuse is deemed void as the laptop was not stolen and they should never have activated the webcams in then and the fact that a student was disciplined using a picture taken with the webcam shows that they are ready and willing to use the remote webcam feature for things other than theft recovery.

  42. Dave Bell

    One-sided story

    This is a one-sided story, of course. A lawsuit depends on presenting the case to the advantage of one's own side.

    And it doesn't need an unusual proportion of idiots, in a country the size of the USA, for dumb things to happen.

    Dumb things have definitely happened.

  43. Andy Livingstone

    Silly bugger.

    What are you on about, AC, 20/2, 04:43?

    Have you tried walking down any UK High Street at lunchtime?

    Police feel safe only in pairs. School staff no where in sight. Kids on the rampage.

    You have had your rant. Please return to the present reality.

  44. John Murgatroyd


    If the laptop was in its "owners" room then I presume it was not stolen.

    Unless the school regularly views the laptop to make sure it is not stolen.

    So, it seems that the school/security may also have been monitoring the USE of the laptop and then used the remote access to the webcam to see who was using it to view whatever it was connected to.

  45. Doug Glass

    Having Taught ...

    ... high school for a number of years in the U.S. of A. during the early '70s, I came to two conclusions: 1.) the job itself was a dead-end with no future, no benefits and no support and 2.) the entire school system was populated by the lowest of the low in terms of ability, competency and general teacher and administrator qualifications. Since then I have had my beliefs confirmed time and time again.

    Oh yeah, "We were doing wrong, but we stopped anyway". Morons and miscreants teaching our kids and we wonder why they turn out the way they do.

  46. Martin Nicholls


    "This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop"

    Which is evidently not the case or they wouldn't have the image?

    Just the list of laws this kind of thing would break in the UK alone is incredible.

    Odds of the parents reading this are zero, but they shouldn't forget relevent child protection legislation.

  47. fred #257
    Paris Hilton

    This is why....

    I don't have a webcam, won't ever have a webcam. Anybody who needs to know what I look like, already does.

    Why would anyone in their right mind help other peeps to look at them? If ya got one, sooner or later you'll leave it on by mistake or some hacker will find a way to turn it on....

    Paranoid? Me? Well, maybe I am, after all we knows the Interweb thingy is perfectly safe and nobody ever snoops, don't we?

    Paris, 'cos she's got nothing to hide

  48. Ed Gould
    Dead Vulture

    Comes back fighting?

    This article contains no information as to what the school came back fighting with. No new information nothing more than what was put out initially. Wheres The BEEF??!!!

  49. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    "Blu tak"

    "Blu-Tack is a versatile, reusable putty-like pressure-sensitive adhesive, commonly used to attach papers to walls or other surfaces", according to Wikipedia. So it's like Play-Doh but it becomes sticky when handled and then you can fix stuff to walls with it. But in this case the idea is to fill a camera or microphone aperture with the stuff to block vision and sound.

    For instance, I wanted a discreet alarm, so I took a digital alarm device with holes in the back where the alarm sound comes out, and put Blu-Tack over the holes to make the sound quieter -and- to mount the device on a convenient vertical surface.

  50. ratfox
    Paris Hilton

    More details

    1) it was a macbook, so no jokes about Windows security. The school had admin rights on the laptops, not the students.

    2) The family lawyer says he was seen popping candies named Mike-N-Ike. The school evidently believed it was drugs.

    3) I can't believe they thought they could get away with it.

    Even PH wouldn't be this stupid...

  51. DavidK


    Surely a savvy kid could reinstall with a dodgy copy of Windows (either downloaded or borrowed off a mate). Or even Linux. I'd certainly try if it was me. We all know you can't be sure of security if the guilty party has physical access to the machine.

    Also, Becta's promises don't mean jack. I'd rather have the school spying than the government spying.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For "Someone else" who asked, what is Blu-Tack?

    Similar products to Blu-Tack are sold as Elmer's Tack and Poster Putty. There are some other synonyms here:

  53. Steve Roper

    This is why I don't have kids

    Because this is the world they'd be living in. I feel only sorrow and pity for today's children, who will grow up to inherit the Orwellian hell we've created for them. When I was a child, the school's control of my life ended the moment I got home and changed out of school uniform. And when I went to a state school which didn't require uniforms the school's control of my life ended the moment I left the school grounds. The idea that a school has taken for itself the right to govern a child's lifestyle outside of school hours is just one more example of the conditioning to live in a totalitarian society being pushed upon kids today. Preparation for future employers being able to control how you behave out of work hours, perhaps?

    Children, if you are reading this, learn well how to evade detection and monitoring by authority figures. It will be your only chance for survival in the future you are facing.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ Steve Roper

    I'm 49 years old. I went to two different grammar schools, one after the other. At both schools we were told quite blatantly that if we got into trouble while wearing the school uniform that we would be in deep poo poo.

    Trying to keep your pupils to behave in society was part of our education. Any adult could grass on us and conversely they could praise us. I don't think it did me or any of my friends any harm.

    It seems you think the detection of anti-social behaviour/crime by youths of all ages and subsequent lack of any punishment time and time again makes for a good way to grow up.

    I for one don't fancy your world and I think it's a good thing for all that you don't want kids.

    1. Steve Roper

      Did you even read my post?

      Or did the red rage blind you after the first line? I know when I went to a private school that while wearing the uniform your school governed your conduct - which is why I *posted* about getting home and changing out of uniform.

      As to the rest, excessive authority *should* be responded to by increased abilities of evasion. Otherwise we're just slaves. Setting rules is one thing, and yes, it's necessary for civilisation to exist. But intruding into someone's private activities at home or not in your jusridiction is powerlust, plain and simple, and I stand by my statement that kids should oppose such abuses of power.

  55. Secretgeek

    "Home Access Initiative"

    Or as a friend of mine that works on the project likes to call it, "Laptops for Scrotes"

  56. JohnG

    Why/When did the school start taking photos?

    Given that the student in question was not accused of stealing another student's laptop, then the school's statement is utter nonsense. This then begs the question: when and why did they really start taking photos of their students?

    As the police now know that school employees have taken at least one photo of a minor in his own bedroom, taken without permission, it has to be worth a visit to check the personal computers, usb sticks and Internet activities of all school employees who might have been involved in such activities. As the school has not provided a satisfactory explanation as to why they were taking such photos in the first place, it is not unreasonable to check if the reason was to satisfy the unpleasant urges of one or more members of school staff.

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