Happily chatting and walking between lessons, these children are being watched by school spy cameras designed for their protection.
Now it has emerged that the images can be viewed by anyone after the CCTV systems were hacked and put online.
A disturbing website, which boasts ‘Watch live surveillance cameras in the UK’, allows people anywhere in the world to spy on children, teachers and parents in real time. Four British schools were found among hundreds of public spaces, businesses and private homes whose security was breached because their cameras weren’t protected by passwords.
Among the schools on the US-registered site was St Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool, attended by 1,188 pupils. Eight CCTV cameras in the playground, entrances and inside the school corridors could be accessed.
They also have views of the neighbouring Christ The King Academy Primary School. Last Wednesday afternoon, Christ The King Academy infant school children could also be seen from cameras at St Mary’s leaving their classrooms and being picked up by parents.
In the attached St Mary’s Academy site, older students, teachers and sixth-formers could also be spied on. The parent of a child at St Mary’s branded the breach ‘completely shocking’. ‘It’s really bad, they’ve got cameras everywhere around the school and even in the toilets,’ the parent said.
Also targeted was Highfield Leadership Academy in Blackpool which has 1,130 pupils.
Seven cameras were being streamed live. Told about the footage, one Highfield parent said: ‘Oh, my God. How can they be allowed to run so many cameras if they can’t look after the children the cameras are supposed to protect?’ None of the headteachers at the schools would comment when informed of the breaches.
At an unnamed fourth school in the South-East footage shows students, teachers and cleaning staff inside a room, which has distinctive purple, white and grey lockers on one side. St Mary’s and Highfield strengthened their passwords, thereby removing cameras from the site.
Jeremy Hartley, of the Eric Wright Group which runs CCTV systems at two of the schools, said: ‘As soon as our systems were alerted, the camera feed was immediately taken offline and our technology experts were on site to investigate the breach and to determine the cause.’ More than 200 schools across the UK use security cameras in toilets, according to a report by anti-surveillance advocacy group Big Brother Watch.
The website broadcasting the footage claims no cameras are hacked and all the internet-connected cameras on the site do not have proper password protection.
The Information Commissioner’s Office said it is looking into the details of the cases.