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School Uses Laptop Cameras to Spy on Students at Home

Class Action Lawsuit
In a case that just gets weirder every day, high school students have now sued the Lower Merion School District in Philadelphia in a class action lawsuit for using webcams to spy on students at home. The District stands accused of remotely activating the iSight cameras on the students’ laptop computers and monitoring the students at home for disciplinary violations. In a brazen act of self-immolation, Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko allegedly informed spy_thu_keyholeone of the minor plaintiffs attending Harriton High School, that the minor was engaging in improper behavior at home. The self-directed coup de grâce, was of course Ms. Matsko presenting the student with an incriminating photograph taken with the remotely controlled webcam.

Students Had Previously Voiced Concerns
According to a post on Gizmodo, it appears the school had been remotely spying on students for some time. When one student brought his concerns to the school’s IT department, the IT department allegedly explained to him that the iSight light remained on because the student logged out without shutting down an application using the iSight camera.

The Class Action Lawsuit
The seven count lawsuit reads like a primer on the law of electronic communications. Asserting interception of electronic communications, intellectual property theft, unauthorized access of stored communications, civil rights violations, wiretapping and invasion of privacy, the lawsuit presages an expensive and painful schooling of the Lower Marion School District over the next several years.

The Real Problem
The worst part is not that the school officials appear to have so shockingly violated the privacy of students and their families. The most horrifying part is that at least one school official apparently believed such a calculated and blatant violation of the Constitution was acceptable. Even your dumbest pedophilic voyeur understands that spying on kids inside their homes is wrong. To so fully fail to comprehend even one of the dozens of critical trust violations at issue here entails a special kind of stupid, not often found in the bipedal population.

The Solution
In my experience, teachers lag behind students in the proper use of technology. This is not entirely the teacher’s fault. Shrinking school budgets and lack of information technology training leave many teachers the victim of circumstance. While most teachers cannot change the quality of hardware or software at their disposal, teachers can certainly change the quality of their wetware.

Just Ask
There are hundreds of information technology professionals out there willing to offer teachers free information and instruction about new technology. If you are a teacher, ask your students if any of their parents teach people about the internet as part of their job. In my experience, those most knowledgeable about information technology are the most willing to donate their time to help others. Do not worry about appearing clueless when it comes to technology. The only thing to be ashamed about when it comes to information technology is not reaching out for help. Make some phone calls.

As the Lower Merion School District is painfully learning, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure.

Brett Trout

Posted in Internet Law. Tagged with , , .