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PA School Responds To Spying Accusations

Posted 22 Feb 2010 | Comments Off on PA School Responds To Spying Accusations | 2,699 views

The Lower Merion School District has made a public response to the lawsuit brought by the Robbins family. The district claims that the district has remotely activated the webcam 42 times in response to reports of lost or stolen laptops. The attorney for the Robbins family has stated that the laptop used by Blake Robbins was never reported as lost or stolen.

The lawsuit claims that Blake Robbins was disciplined for inappropriate activity at home, and a picture remotely taken from the laptop was used as evidence of the activity. If the cited picture can be produced, then the distrct’s claim of the strict remote access usage would be discredited.

Many observers have commented that it is not the district’s place to determine what is appropriate or inappropriate activity when a student is off campus. Some students have taken to covering the webcam with tape. One blogger noted that the student does not have the capability to disable the webcam or the microphone.

The Robbins family has filed a motion with the court to prevent the district from remotely activating the cameras or from destroying and access logs. With correct logging in place, the court could verify the districts claims and the scope of remote monitoring.

The school district has placed a FAQ on their website. According to the FAQ, students are allowed to cover the webcam. When asked if students are allowed to use their personal computers, the FAQ avoids directly answering the question with a simple yes or no.

This will definitely be a case to watch. It has been reported that the FBI has opened a parallel investigation. A Wikipedia page has also been created.

Update 1: The Stryde Hax blog has some interesting observations on (as he calls it) the spy at Harriton High, especially the reactions of possible former students.

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