IT run amok: Pa. school allegedly spied on students via webcams
Earlier this week, I published a TR Dojo episode on using Prey to recover stolen laptops. This free application allows individuals to collect information that can describe a stolen machine’s whereabouts, such as the status of the computer, a list of running programs, network and Wi-Fi information, a screenshot of the running desktop, and a picture of the physical surroundings (if the machine has a webcam). It’s this last piece of information that can be extremely helpful, but also the most controversial.
On Tuesday, a federal lawsuit was filed against the Lower Merion School District in Ardmore, Pa. accusing school officials of spying on students at Harriton High School through the webcams on school-issued Macbooks. By Wednesday, the story had exploded across the Web and been picked up by local and national media outlets.
Lower Merion School District officials can activate the webcams without students’ knowledge or permission, the suit said. Plaintiffs Michael and Holly Robbins suspect the cameras captured students and family members as they undressed and in other embarrassing situations, according to the suit.
How did the plaintiffs find out about the school districts ability to remotely activate the webcams? Here’s another excerpt from the same AP report:
The Robbinses said they learned of the alleged webcam images when Lindy Matsko, an assistant principal at Harriton High School, told their son that school officials thought he had engaged in improper behavior at home. The behavior was not specified in the suit.
“(Matsko) cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor plaintiff’s personal laptop issued by the school district,” the suit states.
Matsko later confirmed to Michael Robbins that the school had the ability to activate the webcams remotely…