I Spy The Lower Merion Way

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carla's picture
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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.

LMSD Laptop Spying Court Docket Filed 2/11/2010

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?

Ok, well here we go:

NY Times:.Suit: Pa. School Spied on Students via Laptops

CATO picked it up...LOOK OUT LMSD:

CATO@LIBERTY: Big Teacher Is Watching
Posted by Julian Sanchez

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 sued for cyber spying on students
By DANA DiFILIPPO
Philadelphia Daily News
215-854-5934

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.

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
InformationWeek
February 18, 2010 03:35 PM

Posted on Thu, Feb. 18, 2010
Suit: School-issued laptops used to spy on kids on Main Line
By Sam Wood
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

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.

Updated February 18, 2010
District Spied on Student, Parents Using School-IssuedLaptops, Suit Claims
FOXNews.com
The suit claims an assistant principal acknowledged the school could turn on the Web cam and take pictures whenever it wanted to.

USA Today: Feb 18, 2010
School district accused of issuing webcam laptops to spy on students

.Main Line Times > News
Is Lower Merion spying students inside their home? LM official responds
Published: Thursday, February 18, 2010
By Richard Ilgenfritz

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 .

CityPaper The Clog: Dept. of Holy Shit: Big Brother is watching, kids (now, with update!)

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.


Courthouse News Service: Thursday, February 18, 2010Last Update: 12:59 PM PT Big Brother Is Here: Families Say Schools Snoop in Their Homes With District-Issued Laptops & Webcams
By JEFF SCHREIBER

NBC10: local-beat School Spies on Students at Home With Webcams: Suit
Administrator remotely activates student's webcam to watch his “improper behavior” at home: lawsuit
By TERESA MASTERSON
Updated 3:29 PM EST, Thu, Feb 18, 2010

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LexoTime5's picture
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Check out this one! News sure does travel fast.

http://www.express.be/joker/nl/platdujour/school-bespioneerde-studenten-via-webcam-in-uitgeleende-laptops/121955.htm

The school district needs to put out something stronger ASAP because this is the worst possible pr.

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CommonCents19087's picture
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WOW

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35461838/ns/technology_and_science-security/

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chattypatty's picture
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He's back! Who better to provide unique insight to this story than the wacky hacker himself.

Larry Mendte lands TV job at station in New York City

By REGINA MEDINA
Philadelphia Daily News

medinar@phillynews.com 215-854-5985
Larry Mendte, the former CBS3 anchor with a history in this town, is about to land himself an on-air job in the Big Apple as a TV commentator.

Mendte - who has been off the air since his highly publicized firing from the station in June 2008 after an FBI investigation found he had hacked into former co-worker Alycia Lane's e-mail account - has been working on commentary pieces for WPIX-TV for the last month, WPIX news director Bill Carey said last night.

Carey expects Mendte to become a full-time WPIX employee in the "next couple of weeks," he said. The station is in "the process of putting together a deal that would put him on the air five nights a week," he said.

Mendte, 53, and his family will remain in Philadelphia, his wife, Dawn Stensland, said last night.

Mendte has at least six commentaries in the can and a list of ideas that the station expects to air, said Carey, who worked with Mendte in New York and Chicago.

"They will be topically driven on current events," Carey said. "It will feature centerpieces based on Larry's unique take on topics that Larry chooses."

First up? Tiger Woods.

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carla's picture
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Karen & Savanna were terrific on the CBS Morning Show

k3
_____________________________________________________________
L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers/Man is born free, yet he is everywhere in chains.–Jean Jacques Rosseau. The Social Contract, 1762

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"Well behaved women rarely make history" - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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