Emergent Privacy Reporting

On December 19th, Denebola, the student run newspaper of Newton South High School, broke the news that video cameras had been secretly installed in their school. Not only were students and parents not notified of the cameras but apparently neither were any of the teachers. From the student article:

According to Salzer, only he, Superintendent Jeff Young, Director of Public Facilities Mike Cronin, and a small security team were aware of the cameras. They did not inform faculty members, and the Newton Fire and Police Departments are not involved in their operations.

Boston.com is reporting that the school committee and the teachers union are asking why there weren’t contacted or involved in this discussion.

Newton Teachers Association (NTA) President Cheryl Turgel is unsure whether the cameras violate teacher contract agreements or faculty privacy rights. The Newton Public Schools did not warn the NTA prior to the camera installation of their decision. While Turgel is not necessarily opposed to the Newton Public Schools using surveillance cameras to deter vandalism, she feels that the NTA should have warned of the installation.

While the Boston.com article ignores the issue of student privacy, the student paper does not:

Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Massachusetts Sarah Wunsch notes that, while the legalities of putting surveillance cameras in schools without notifying the public is a rather gray area, South’s installation is “at the very least, an awful thing to do.”

The one saving grace is that the cameras are not yet operational, apparently due to a software problem. When fully operational, the principal will be able to access the previous 31 days of footage on any of the cameras. I really hope (and seriously doubt) that a proper security audit has been done on this system to ensure that other people won’t be able to remote access this footage.