School District PREYing on Students
The Lower Merion School District recently admitted to activating the webcams on 42 “missing” school-owned laptops without the knowledge or permission of students and their families. Surprisingly, the software that performs this function is not only widely available, it’s free and downloadable by anyone.
Prey is a lightweight program which runs in the background and is completely hidden to the end user. It’s built in modules so an administrator can choose whether or not to install certain features like the ability to activate a laptop’s webcam. Clearly, if they were using Prey (and it is by no means certain that they were), someone in the Lower Merion School District choose to enable this function. A laptop does not need to be “missing” in order to activate one or more of Prey’s monitoring capabilities. An administrator, or anyone with access to the Prey internet control panel, can activate, for example, a laptop’s webcam, anytime.
I am, perhaps, always the skeptic in these matters. But as anyone who has read this blog knows, this kind of activity is not surprising. Remember Brannum v. Overton County School Bd, covered here, where school administrators installed and operated video surveillance equipment in the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms? What about strip searching students over Advil in the Savana Redding case? Even the FBI was implicated when several employees were caught using security cameras to spy on underage girls in a dressing room during a prom dress charity event.
Sadly, it shouldn’t be shocking to anyone that the Lower Merion School District administration is finally joining the cyber sexting party. Even sadder is the fact that some students knew something was amiss with their webcams but either didn’t care or just chose to cover the webcam with a post-it.
Now where did I put my laptop? Hey, who deleted my copy of Brave New World. And why is my webcam blinking . . . . Thank goodness it’s only the school nurse making sure I’m not chewing on an illicit Advil. Ms. Miller, if you’re out there, it’s only a cinnamon flavored tic tac. Really. It is.