General Question

TheLoneMonk's avatar

Can someone tell my anything about the privacy afforded the user of a laptop that was made available to them through work or school? Deets inside:?

Asked by TheLoneMonk (2892points) February 27th, 2010

I just heard a story on NPR about a student who was given a laptop through a school district program for use at home and school. According to the report the student was reprimanded by the principal of his school for doing drugs while at home (the student claimed he was eating Mike and Ike’s and apparently his story was borne out as true). It seems that the principal was able to observe students at home via the webcam in the provided laptops.

My question isn’t so much about the issue of privacy, my question is about what a school district or an employer might be able to glean from a student/employees laptop without s/e knowledge. In other words, are their programs, outside of a webcam, that can track what I am doing and what sites I’m visiting on my laptop and have those results sent to my employer/school district? I understand that cookies and tracking software might be in the computer but can that software report back or would the employer have to have the laptop in hand to see where I’ve been?

Me fears that my poker playing days on the company laptop might be drawing nigh…

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3 Answers

Just_Justine's avatar

I think that companies keep more than cookie data on their servers in order to track where you are surfing. I am no computer fundi but I saw no one had answered. I do know they can track your history if they so want to. However not sure how. Perhaps do a Google search on company and spying techniques.

srmorgan's avatar

The laptop is the property of the employer or the school district and is loaned to the user for the sole and express purpose of performing tasks related to one’s studies or workloand.
An employee should have NO expectation of privacy concerning company-owned computers in the employee’s possession. NONE. Depending on the company and its published computer use policies, putting unauthorized software or applications or jpgs. or movie clips could constitute grounds for discipline or immediate dismissal.

That being said no employer is going to bust an employee for having personal e-mails or brwoser history on a company computer. But what might be to you, inoccuous content, might be viewed totally differently by the company.

I have heard of companies that will inspect an employee’s hard drive every time that the employee logged into a company network, specifically looking for unauthorized content. Sees a little too ‘big brother ” for me but companies must cover their own assess too.

The school case you refer to involved the Lower Merion School District in PA. The school gave out macintoshes with internal webcams that could be controlled remotely by the network administrators and could not be disabled by the student. There was even a way for the camera to work even if the laptop was closed and powered down!.
It is an interesting story and I can go find the URL if anyone is interested in it.


jeschge's avatar

to avoid anything like that you could use a live-operating-system like knoppix or ubuntu. you just need to know some (little) linux basics and the possibility to boot from cd…

you will never be able to detect any “observing” tools on a borrowed computer, so don’t use it for sensitive privat stuff!

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