What Could Retail Do With A Spying Laptop?

When news of the spying laptops from Lower Merion, PA, first surfaced, my initial reaction was fury. No, not at the laptop spying itself (when the Supreme Court sanctioned strip-searching students for over-the-counter medication, I gave up on school privacy). My fury: They're giving free MacBook Pros to thousands of high school students while my kid's school is laying off teachers.

But what's a lot more interesting—especially given the federal, state and county law enforcement probes—is the district's reliance on the contract that students must sign when they are issued the laptop. If that small-print defense is upheld, retailers will have a field day. Imagine laptops that will report back to the mother ship about every online purchase made, which rival's sites are being visited and the disposable cash of that consumer (hello online tax returns and personal finance programs). With the Webcam activated, you can now see what the customer is wearing and with what accessories and even listen to what he/she is saying about it. If that case doesn't come down hard against the school district, they will have at least completed part of their education duty: they will have taught a lot of people some new ways of making money.

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