So did the SAC site have this story first or was it a massive all over breaking news thing?
To say I am floored by this news is an understatement. No matter how it came out, I can't believe it is happening, period. It just wigs me out that a kid could have say their laptop open in their bedroom and be dressing or undressing and this could all be captured by these webcams. This is like nanny cams on crack. Seriously. Every day brings another scandal from Lower Merion School District or Lower Merion Township. It's bad enough the LMSD looks like they will end up being outed as racists, but perverts too? There is no excuse to spy on kids and their families. OH MY GOD. This is just crazy creepy.
There have been news helicopters buzzing around today and I have seen several news vans cruising. Here are some articles, including as another blogger pointed out over on Doug's post "Is Lower Merion School District Spying on Students in Their Homes?", this has made the New York Times. I would like to know what other school districts around here give kids laptops?
Researching government invasions of privacy all day, I come across my fair share of incredibly creepy stories, but this one may just take the cake. A lawsuit alleges that the Lower Merion School District in suburban Pennsylvania used laptops issued to each student to spy on the kids at home by remotely and surreptitiously activating the webcam built into the bezel of each one. The horrified parents of one student apparently learned about this capability when their son was called in to the assistant principal’s office and accused of “inappropriate behavior while at home.” The evidence? A still photograph taken by the laptop camera in the student’s home.
Lower Merion School District officials brag that they give every one of their 1,800 high-schoolers laptop computers to "ensure that all students have 24/7 access to school-based resources."
Instead, they ensured they got a 24/7 sneak peek into students’ private lives by secretly monitoring webcams embedded in the laptops to spy on teens and their families at home, according to a federal, class-action lawsuit filed this week in Philadelphia.
Lower Merion School District officials used school-issued laptop computers to illegally spy on students, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
The suit, filed Feb. 11, says unnamed school officials at Harriton High School in Rosemont remotely activated the webcam on a student's computer last year because the district believed he "was engaged in improper behavior in his home."
An assistant principal at Harriton confronted the student for "improper behavior" on Nov. 11 and cited a photograph taken by the webcam as evidence.
Webcams can be a window to the world. But a lawsuit filed this week claims they are also a one-way window being used by school officials to peek in on students and their families at home.
A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by the parents of a Harriton High School student alleges that the Lower Merion School District has been remotely spying on students inside their homes through their webcam-enabled district-issued computers.
According to the suit filed by Mark S. Haltzman with the firm Lamm Rubenstone, Lindy Matsko, an assistant principal at Harriton, told a minor student in November that the district knows he was engaged “in improper behavior in his home and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in the minor plaintiff’s personal laptop issued by the school district.”
Lower Merion has launched a one-on-one campaign to issue laptop computers to all high-school students. The program began a couple of years ago at Harriton and has since been expanded to Lower Merion High School.
But what students and parents say they didn’t know was that the district was spying on them while they were inside their own homes.
“Unbeknownst to the plaintiffs and the members of the class, and without their authorization, defendants have been spying on the activities of plaintiffs and class members by defendants’ indiscriminate use of and ability to remotely activate the webcams incorporated into each laptop issued to students by the school district. This continuing surveillance of plaintiffs and the Class members' home use of the laptop issued to students by the School district,” the suit reads. “This continuing surveillance of plaintiffs’ and the class members’ home use of the laptop issued by the school district, including the indiscriminate remote activation of the webcams incorporated into each laptop, was accomplished without the knowledge or consent of the plaintiffs of the members of the class.”
District officials said the first they heard of the allegations was Thursday morning.
“This is the first we have heard of this lawsuit being filed and the plaintiff’s allegations. However, we can categorically state that we have always been committed to protecting the privacy of our students,” district spokesman Doug Young wrote in an e-mail to Main Line Media News. “Our district was one of the first in Pennsylvania to provide free laptops to all high school students and this educational initiative has been successful and well-received in our school community. The legal matter has been referred to our attorneys for appropriate action and we will continue to update students and families with additional information.”
The plaintiffs say the district’s ability to spy on them inside their homes is a violation of their privacy.
“As the laptops at issue were routinely used by the students, their friends and family members while at home, it is believed and therefore averred that many of the webcam images captured and/or intercepted consist of minors and/or their parents in compromising or embarrassing positions, including but not limited to, in various stages of dress or undress,” the suit claims.
Main Line Media News you keep you updated on this developing story as more details become available .
Feb.11, a student filed a class-action lawsuit against the Lower Merion School District alleging "invasion of Plaintiffs' privacy, theft of Plaintiffs' private information and unlawful interception and access to acquired and exported data and other stored electronic communications … "
Basically, the gist of the complaint is this: The school district issues each of its students a laptop computer to take home (which is actually pretty cool). These laptops contain webcams. According to the suit, "Defendants [that is, the school district] have been spying on Plaintiffs … by Defendants' indiscriminate use of and ability to remotely activate the webcams incorporated into each laptop issued to students by the School District."
Lead plaintiff Blake Robbins, a student at Harriton High School, learned about all of this on Nov. 11, 2009, the suit says, when assistant principal Lindy Matsko "informed [Robbins] that the School District was of the belief that [Robbins] was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in [Robbins'] personal laptop issued by the School District. … [T]he School District, in fact, has the ability to remotely activate the webcam contained in a student's personal laptop computer … at any time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam … ."
The nature of Robbins' alleged misbehavior isn't clear from the lawsuit; we're going to dig into this story a bit more in the near future. (I may have missed something, but so far the only media attention this story has gotten, that I've seen, anyway, came from BoingBoing. You can read the lawsuit yourself here, or the DailyKossacks' reaction to the BoingBoing story here.) We'll be trying to get comments from Robbins and/or the School District up here today. But if this story is at all true … holy shit. Spying on kids, in their bedrooms? What if they, you know, decide to change clothing? It's one thing to track how students use school district property — if they're visiting hardcore porn sites or whatever — it's quite another to use a webcam to monitor and capture their daily activities, outside of school, in the supposed privacy of their own homes.
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Page last updated: Sat, 01 Aug 2015 09:49:11 -0400