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Update:FBI Investigating PA School Webcam Spying

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spyFrom the Associated Press: “A law-enforcement official with knowledge of the case says the FBI has opened a criminal investigation into a Pennsylvania school district accused of activating webcams inside students’ homes without their knowledge.

“The official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, says the FBI will explore whether Lower Merion School District officials broke any federal wiretap or computer-intrusion laws.”

In an earlier report today, a spokesman for the Lower Merion (PA) school district said they have activated the cameras 42 times in an effort to locate missing or stolen laptops.

The school responded earlier today with statements that can be found at

http://www.lmsd.org/sections/news/default.php?t=today&p=lmsd_anno&id=… See Morehttp://www.lmsd.org/sections/news/default.php?t=today&p=lmsd_anno&id=1137.

Hmmm, I guess the school is going with that story. What I haven’t found anywhere is their explanation of why, during a hunt for a missing or stolen computer, they took a photo of the student which they used as reason to discipline him. In brief, nothing smells right about this one.

Earlier today, a Philly.com story reported “Montgomery County prosecutors will look into a lawsuit’s controversial claim that Harriton High School officials spied on a 15-year-old student in his home via a camera on a school-issued laptop.

“District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said this afternoon that her office learned of the surveillance allegation from news reports yesterday, two days after the student and his parents sued in federal court, claiming their privacy had been invaded.”

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3 Responses to “Update:FBI Investigating PA School Webcam Spying”

  1. mary says:

    My husband bought up an interesting thought – how many young ladies went into their bedrooms and changed their clothes unaware that some public school pervert was watching? It also occurred to me that if a neighbor put a camera in my house to spy on me, they would go to prison. AND how much spying is going on in the homes of students of cyber schools, like K12, in their bedrooms?

    One more reason to avoid those 'free' laptops with the cameras in them.

    Mary

  2. All of those issues have come up in various discussions…the family filing suit, in fact, have talked to a Philly tv station and they have an 18y.o. daughter, as well, who also has a computer.

    I'm sure FREE laptops sounded like a terrific deal at the time…

  3. It is disingenuous of the Lower Merion School District to cite the "locating stolen laptops' as the only reason for the spy software they installed on 1800 laptops.

    Firstly, the class action lawsuit was brought by a student who was allegedly spied on in his home and reprimanded for doing by the school's vice principal for "inappropriate behaviour." The situation that prompted the civil class action litigation has nothing to do with missing or stolen laptops.

    Secondly, how would taking a still image of a computer user help locate stolen laptops? How would district personnel be able to identify the thief from a still photograph? And since when are school personnel responsible for investigating crimes?

    The facts do however appear to suggest that the Lower Merion School District personnel knowingly installed spy devices and used their students to bring the devices into private homes.

    The information that people who had access to this software and the data it gathered could be used for unimaginable bad purposes. This alleged misconduct on the part of the school district not only constitutes a gross violation of privacy,the Fourth Amendment, and the US Constitution to name a few, but represents an egregious breach of the trust we place in our educators and the public school system.

    This situation, imho, exemplifies the overarching power and authority that many school district employees and boards seem to think they have over the families they are supposed to serve.

    School districts need to understand that they exist to serve students, not rule over them.

    Mimi Rothschild

    Educational Technologist and Lower Merion resident.

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