You may have heard about the school district in California that let some 2,000 students take home school-issued laptops,  The laptops had webcams and a software program, Theft Tracker.  Theft Tracker would take pictures with the web cam every 15 minutes, if the shool officials activated the program.  Many laptops were reported stolen.  So, the webcams were activated in many laptops. The program enabled the law enforcement authroities to recover six laptops.  But, some laptops were reported stolen but later found by the student.  Yet, the Theft Tracker was never deactivated.  The laptops overall took some 56,000 pictures.  About two-thirds of the pictures were related to the six actually stolen laptops.  The rest of the pictures were taken from laptops that had not been stolen. School officials simply neglected to deactivate the theft tracker software.  So, there were many pictures.

The parents were not told about the software.  They have even pretty upset, reports Workplace Privacy Counsel.  The school committed several errors, reports Workplace Privacy:

  • The school failed to issue written policies regarding the use of Theft Tracker
  • Parents and students were not informed and were not required to consent to its use

As Workplace Privacy Counsel explains, the same issues would apply to the workplace.  Any employer seeking to use similar technology would need to issue written policies regarding the technology and obtain consent from its employees.  

Otherwise, any employer would face what the California school district is facing: at least one lawsuit, so far regarding invasion of privacy; an FBI investigation; Congressional hearings; and one proposal by Sen. Specter to extend the Federal Wiretap Act to video surveillance.