Privacy Not Very Private Anymore: Part 2 - The UpStream

Privacy Not Very Private Anymore: Part 2

posted Sunday Apr 18, 2010 by Kyria Gianos

Privacy Not Very Private Anymore: Part 2

Remember that school district in Pennsylvania? Yes, we're referring to the Lower Merion School District, the one that allegedly caught students performing inappropriate behavior through webcams in the district-issued latops. The boy's parents were unaware that an override feature allowed the county to access the webcam at any time. On November 11, the student was called into the office and punished for "inappropriate behavior" caught on the webcam. Turns out, some of the images captured were of the boy half-dressed. Also, personal instant messages were viewed without merit.

The override feature was intended to track stolen laptops, and while activated was capable of taking photos on the webcam and screenshots every 15 seconds. Blake Robbins and his parents were not happy when they found out the school had over 400 personal shots. When the laptops were issued, an agreement was signed agreeing to not engage in inappropriate behavior on the laptop itself, but that doesn't include what the student was doing in his home when the photos were captured.

Apparently this wasn't the first time this happened. An FBI investigation revealed that this isn't the first time the school board has done this. They claim that the webcams were only accessed when the laptops were not returned, or when students failed to pay the required insurance.The problem is, at least once the wrong laptop was accessed due to a "name mix-up." That does not seem very plausible.

Mark Haltzman, the attorney who filed the lawsuit claimed, "Thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots have been taken of numerous other students in their homes, many of which never reported their laptops lost or missing." Only two employees had access to the cameras, and one refused to comment on the situation.

The employees apparently viewed this as a game. One wrote in an email that viewing the pictures were like watching "a little LMSD soap opera." The response, "I know, I love it!" I can't believe adults that are supposed to be setting an example for these impressionable students are acting like children. The Robbins' have plenty of evidence to back up their case, but we'll find out the outcome in the upcoming months.

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