The Government Of Trinidad Denies Existence Of Spyware In Its School’s IT Program
We previously featured a letter written Julien Dedier, the chairman of the board of directors of the Trinidad and Tobago Amateur Radio League (TTARL) to the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA). About the invasion of the schoolchildren’s privacy through spying via the laptops given to the students as part of Trinidad’s School IT Program.
In reaction to this letter and numerous publication on the same in the media, the education minister, Dr Tim Gopeesingh has come out in defense of the government. Stating that laptops being used in schools did not have any spyware programs installed in them.
“There has never been any time that we have ever installed any area close to anything like a spyware or malware,” these were the remarks Gopeesingh made during the post-Cabinet news conference held last week.
What is interesting though, is that Mr Gopeesingh missed the point that the laptop in question were supplied by China, and the alleged software could have been installed without the government’s knowledge.
Gopeesingh went further to dismiss claims of existence of spyware in the computers, citing that there was only one reported case of a computer fitted with spyware. He also expressed his dismay that the report was made available to the media even before his ministry got wind of it. As the law requires any irregularities to be first made to the ministry.
The minister said that the government is planning to retrieve the laptop and will conduct their own independent investigations. Despite there being numerous publications and reports before alleging to the existence of potential security threats in the laptop computers donated or supplied by foreign governments. The first concrete ground for basis these claims came last were in the form of a letter written on August 30th, 2014 by Dedier.
In reaction to this discovery, Gopeesingh said, “The ministry of education has taken note of the alleged discovery of this spyware on the government-issued laptops. We also take note of the non-reporting of this incident to the ministry of education as is required of any student who finds such an issue and we also take not of the admission by the individual of the installation of the software on the said laptop by the individual.”
Dedier wrote a follow up letter to the editor of Caribbean News Now, where he said that the Ministry of Education contacted him and has scheduled to hold a meeting with him on Monday or Tuesday over the matter.
The report has also raised alarm in Saint Lucia, which just recently received 3,300 Lenovo Thinkpad laptops from Trinidad in a government-to-government arrangement. Veteran Saint Lucia educator, Dr Virginia Albert-Poyotte, in told Saint Lucia local media that she spoke to the president of TTUTA, who confirmed to her that TTUTA is investigating the matter.
Poyotte said, “Just checking on the information I received it looks like it is a big operation that allows access to confidential information so this is a matter of concern if the computers have spyware.”