Friday, February 19, 2010

School Faces Class Action Lawsuit for Secretly Spying on Kids at Home Via Remote-Controlled Webcams

Let's say a school administrator crawled into your kid's backpack to sneak into your home. 

Creepy McCreeperson?  A Pennsylvania family sure thought so when they experienced the functional equivalent.

The Robbins family filed a federal class action lawsuit against a school district after learning the district used a webcam in a school-issued laptop to secretly spy on their 15-year-old son when he was at home. They've sued for invasion of privacy under state law, violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, and violations of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Computer Fraud Abuse Act, Stored Communications Act, and the Fourth Amendment.

According to the complaint (which posted online), the school surreptitiously spied on students by remotely activating the webcams installed on the laptops the Lower Merion School District issued to them.

The family learned about the remote spying in November of 2009, when an assistant prinicipal told their son, Blake, that she believed he “was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the Webcam embedded in [his] personal laptop issued by the School District.”

The school posted a response on its website, essentially admitting the laptops' webcams can be remotely activated, but saying it was meant to be used for security purposes -- to track down a lost or stolen piece of equipment.

(Thanks to Bret D. for the tip on this story!)

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