Just last October, the Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania paid $610,000 to settle two lawsuits brought after remote software capable of activating webcams was discovered on Mac laptops taken home by some 2,300 students.
Here's how the existence of the software in that school case was uncovered: A high school student (who was involved in one of the lawsuit settlements) was accused by an assistant principal of taking drugs. The evidence? Screenshots taken of the student in his home by the software-activated Mac webcam. (It turns out the "pills" the student was accused of eating actually was candy.)
How creepy is that?
It's hard to tell how widespread webcam surveillance is, but I bet it's more than we suspect. Software that activates webcams could be installed on your work laptop, and you wouldn't know it. It could be installed on student laptops, and you wouldn't know it.
But this much you should know: When technology such as this exists, it gets used.