Thursday, February 18, 2010

School Allegedly Spied On Kids In Their Homes

Click HERE to see original complaint.

"I do trust that the school district knows its bounds."
--A Pennsylvania student who apparently hasn't read this blog or the many news articles, blogs and court cases about illegal behavior by the individuals in charge of our schools

Students'-eye view of Webcam spy case
by Larry Magid

Students at Herriton High School in Lower Merion School District near Philadelphia are given Apple MacBook laptops to use both at school and at home. Like all MacBooks, the ones issued to the students have a Webcam. And, in addition to the students' ability to use the Webcam to take pictures or video, the school district can also use it to take photographs of whomever is using the computer.

In a civil complaint (PDF) filed in federal court, a student at the school, Blake Robbins, said he received a notice from an assistant principal informing him that "the school district was of the belief that minor plaintiff was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the Webcam."

The district said in a statement that the "security feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student." The district further explained that "upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the district's security and technology departments. The tracking-security feature was limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator's screen." The district claims it has "not used the tracking feature or Webcam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever."...

In the mean time, the Associated Press is reporting that the FBI is investigating the district and "will explore whether Lower Merion School District officials broke any federal wiretap or computer-intrusion laws," according to an unnamed official who spoke to the AP.

In an interview with CBS Evening News, plaintiff Blake Robbins said he was unaware that the camera could be activated at his house. "I thought that there was no way that they could do that at my home," Robbins said, adding that the assistant principal "thought I was selling drugs, which is completely false." ...

School Allegedly Spied On Kids In Their Homes

Web cams in laptops provided a school district with compromising photos of minors in their homes, a lawsuit claims.

By Thomas Claburn
February 18, 2010 03:35 PM

A Pennsylvania family last week filed a lawsuit against the Lower Merion School District for spying on their child at home using a Web cam in a school-issued laptop.

The lawsuit, brought by Michael E. Robbins and Holly S. Robbins on behalf of their minor son Blake Robbins, alleges that the school district invaded their privacy and stolen private information in violation of various computer fraud and privacy laws.

The complaint claims that Lindy Matsko, assistant principal of Harriton High School, informed the Robbins' son that the School District believed he "was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the Web cam embedded in [his] personal laptop issued by the School District."

The complaint further states that Michael Robbins subsequently verified that the School District had the ability to remotely capture images using the Web cam at any time, without the knowledge or consent of the user.

"As the laptops at issue were routinely used by students and family members while at home, it is believed and therefore averred that many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors and their parents or friends in compromising or embarrassing positions, including, but not limited to, various stages or dress or undress," the complaint says...

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