Using XS School Server Could Send You to Jail


It breaks my heart and makes me sick to have to address this. But it needs to be addressed. Bitfrost is extremely secure. However, no amount of security can protect kids from themselves. Or teachers and admins from children's actions in the USA school system.

99.999% of the time, XOs are used for innocuous pursuits. What bothers me in the extreme are the ramifications of that other potential 0.001% or whatever infinitesimal number. Now this is the sort of thing that I do not want to even think about, let alone write about. But it only takes a single incident to ruin lives.

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Kids do dumb things and some kids might do some really idiot things with their XOs. What scares me out of my mind are the very real legal consequences and long term damage of having those dumb things not only in the XO's Journal, but saved to the XS.

See, the XS School Server can back up the Journal contents on an XO and restore it if needed. Sounds great! However, its a dangerous activity, and that functionality should not be used in USA classrooms, for a few reasons.


The XO's Record activity could be used as a digital version of "I'll show you mine and you show me yours." I'm no expert in child development, but that is not unheard of in the elementary school set. Or say an older sibling borrows an XO and abuses the webcam. Those pictures would be in the Journal and are legally child pornography.

I don't mean to be alarmist, but I've been reading more and more stories like this, "Ruining Kids in Order to Save Them", and it makes me very afraid.

To put it bluntly, if a kid takes inappropriate pictures and saves them to the Journal, which is then backed up on the XS, its now the nominally under control of the admin. The law might not care that you didn't look at the pictures, nor even knew they were there in the first place. But can you expose yourself to that kind of liability? If you're in the US and you're running an XS with Journal backup and restore, this is something you particularly need to think about.


The Chat Activity is great fun, but there will be some kids who abuse it. As the server admin, should you have reasonably been expected to scan the chats saved to the XS and identified a problem? Even if you're not an educator and have very little contact with the kids in the first place, blame is cast everywhere.

There have been prosecutions of folks who left their wifi networks open and were unwittingly allowing horrible things to be saved to their computers. By that precedent, an XS admin could be held culpable for things he/she never even knew about, even if the network were locked down to just XOs and the most stringent internet filtering.

Sound paranoid? Probably. I'm not a lawyer, but the stakes are too high and the potential issues too serious to even risk the possibility. And who knows? Maybe the prospect of having their images and chats archived to the XS would be a deterrent to inappropriate behavior. I personally would not gamble on that, though. Would you?

John Doe worries about children and adults in the American education system


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The Reason article explains, "These cases are the natural culmination of two trends. The first is the continuing view among politicians that there's no punishment too severe for sex offenders. Moreover, to show how serious we are about sex offenders, we should broaden the class of people we classify under the label. And there needn't be any actual victims."

I think the problem is that politicians that are "tough" on anything related to sex and minors can score political points--but defending these children (or defending a sysadmin that "allowed" the computers to store photos containing nudity) is risky, since a political opponent can say you're "soft" on child porn.

It seems that in our system of democracy, where politicians routinely get away with saying things that are politically correct yet untrue or unreasonable, bad laws often get passed. Those that are opposed to the laws can only gain political traction by waiting for the laws to take victim(s), such as the case of Genarlow Wilson (google it). Only after a clear injustice has been done can those opposed prove that the law is in error; before then, the politicians that are "tough on crime" always seem to win.


Some places make child pornography when sent by children a FELONY!

Imagine being labeled a sex offender for life when your high school girl friend sent you her photo!

I wonder why Vanessa Hudgens' boyfriend never got in trouble with her photos!

How can you protect against a disfunctional legal system?

You cannot.

If the laws and judicial system are mad, even staying at home and covering your head will not keep you safe.

You will have to stop teaching and close all schools because something might happen at school. Remember the teacher whose browser was taken over by malware in class?

Children have to be deserted, because while you care for them, something might happen and you will go to jail.

Child pornography laws are intended to protect children. When they are used to prosecute children, the prosecutors are obviously looking for an excuse to jail someone, anyone.


There is a multitude of companies including MS, Apple and Google that provide remote storage to users. If the provider is held responsible for the content that the client stores in their site, despite an explicit agreement being in place, then it opens a BIG bug of worms.
Even "tough" politicians may not want to open it...

Um. You need to combine the XS with something that is a crime anyway. So socratically think with me:

- crime leads to jail
- crime + XS leads to jail (ooh!)
- XS does not lead to jail

Is XS the factor?

Now, what the author points out is that US laws in this regard are crazy. Yes, they are.

Under current US laws, using _any_ computer device that has storage in a school can send you to jail.

I am not a lawyer, and I am not _your_ lawyer. I have, however, completed various courses at Law School on e-law at masters level, covering the wild and wooly regulations in the US, EU, Australia and NZ. And in the limited time I have, I do follow things like FERPA and how the affect the use of tools like XOs, Moodle, mobile phones, cameras, etc.

I am also the author of the School Server, and I think that mr anonymous John Doe is just writing an attack piece on the XS with no substance.

Infringing FERPA and USCITA will get you in trouble. Do it with a kodak, do it with an XO and XS, do it with a daguerrotype.

I've worked for a major school district in the US and nothing surprises me anymore. Kids will do just about anything for attention these days - whether to shock their friends & teachers, or even to try to beat the system by attempting to hack into the grade database.

The situations listed here can happen anywhere in the World, not just the US. Think about parts of Europe, where sexual language and images are tolerated.

Sadly, this is just another consequence of the "zero tolerance" policies which aim to protect children but end up creating criminals instead.

Somewhat related to the OP's issue, we just gave a class today to high school students on how to fix XOs and found out their main tool, a very small screwdriver, is prohibited to carry on their persons as it's classified as a weapon. How terrible it would be if an 18 year old high school senior, who only wanted to help fix XOs, was suspended or expelled on weapons charges because he forgot to take his screwdriver out of his backpack before he went to school? One could only hope reason would prevail in such a circumstance.

Just today Google got in trouble with the Italian government over a video some kids posted. A high school is Pennsylvania is in trouble because they remotely accessed a school-issued laptop (Macbook, no less) and took a picture of a kid at home. Details are murky but what happens if/when they look at all the stuff those kids downloaded? Who's betting the school will be held responsible?

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