The Situation Room – Nova Scotia school security camera breach proves vigilance a must

Mac Olsen

There’s no escaping the reality that our movements are constantly monitored – willingly or covertly.

That GPS app setting in your Smartphone or other device not only lets the 911 service know where you are in the event you are injured or lost. It also lets advertisers and others monitor your financial, shopping and travel habits.

That’s the nature of our hooked-in world.

Advertisers seek that information, so they can target you and entice you in their campaigns to sell their products and services.

Of course, that one app setting comes with responsibilities, policies and guidelines for the protection of personal privacy.

But what happens when there is malicious intent that deprives you of your right to privacy?

A Nova Scotia school has had to deal with a breach of its security cameras following the broadcast of surveillance images on the Internet.

Keith Doucette of the Canadian Press had a story about this matter on Oct. 12 in The Globe and Mail.

Inadequate passwords and insufficient technical controls led to video surveillance of Cape Breton schoolchildren being live streamed on the Internet,” says Catherine Tully, Nova Scotia’s information and privacy commissioner.

Tully’s report says the video system at the Rankin School of the Narrows in Iona, N.S. was breached when a link to the live feed from one school camera was picked up and distributed by a Russian website that specializes in linking non-secured video surveillance cameras.

The story goes on to say that the video surveillance images of schoolchildren streaming to the Internet created a risk to student safety.

Tully recommended several changes to the school board’s technical security practices, including a privacy breach policy and securing the cameras behind a firewall.

It’s horrific there are websites like the one in Russia that have no regard for privacy and can exploit those who are vulnerable, especially children.

But the Cape Breton school’s security camera fiasco should make school boards and government privacy agencies across Canada mindful of the need to scrutinize and improve security practices and privacy breach policies.

I am confident that school boards take student privacy seriously and that security surveillance systems in schools are not inherently flawed or unprotected.

Also, I am appreciative of security camera systems in local schools knowing they protect students, teachers and support staff from harm.

However, the security camera breach at Rankin School of the Narrows is a reminder that vigilance is imperative under all circumstances.

School boards, their network administrators and governments should conduct reviews and audits frequently, to reduce the risk of breaches such as the one in Nova Scotia, and to implement the necessary changes when they do occur.

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