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Grad Students Analyze, Hack, and Remove Under-Desk Surveillance Devices Designed to Track Them

Vice: “In October, [Northeastern University] quietly introduced heat sensors under desk without notifying students or seeking their consent. Students removed the devices, hacked them, and were able to force the university to stop its surveillance….Surveillance has been creeping unabated across schools, universities, and much of daily life over the past few years, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in October, however, graduate students at Northeastern University were able to organize and beat back an attempt at introducing invasive surveillance devices that were quietly placed under desks at their school. Early in October, Senior Vice Provost David Luzzi installed motion sensors under all the desks at the school’s Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Complex (ISEC), a facility used by graduate students and home to the “Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute” which studies surveillance. These sensors were installed at night—without student knowledge or consent—and when pressed for an explanation, students were told this was part of a study on “desk usage,” according to a blog post by Max von Hippel, a Privacy Institute PhD candidate who wrote about the situation for the Tech Workers Coalition’s newsletter…”

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