School allegedly uses students' laptop webcams for espionage, lawsuit ensues
byRoss Miller||February 18th 2010 at 5:49pmFebruary 18th 2010 5:49 pm
Hold onto your butts, kids, we've got a doozy of a story. Let's take this one slow: a class-action lawsuit has been filed in Pennsylvania accusing the Lower Merion school district of "unauthorized, inappropriate and indiscriminate remote activation" of webcams in laptops issued to students, without prior knowledge or consent. The tale begins when Assistant Principal Lindy Mastko of Harriton High School informed a student that he was "engaged in improper behavior in his home"; the suit alleges that when pressed for details, Mastko told both the boy and his father that the school district could remotely activate the webcam -- a capability that is apparently being used.
The school district has yet to respond to the accusations, so at this point we've only got the plaintiff's side of the story -- for all we know this kid took a picture of himself and somehow accidentally uploaded it on the school network. Then again, some purported Lower Merion students just emailed Gizmodo and claimed that their MacBooks' green webcam lights went on at random times, but they were told by IT support that it was just a technical glitch. Holy alleged invasion of privacy, Batman, this could get mighty interesting. PDF of the complaint available below.
Update: The Lower Merion School District superintendent Christopher McGinley has issued an official response on its website, acknowledging "a
security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops." Going further, he says the district "
has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever" but that the matter is "under review."