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School District Hit With New Mac Spying Lawsuit 330

Posted by samzenpus
from the history-repeating dept.
CWmike writes "A former student at a suburban Philadelphia high school has sued his school district for allegedly spying on him and his family using a school-issued Mac laptop, according to court documents. The Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa. was first sued in February 2010 by another student using similar charges. That case, dubbed 'Spygate' in some reports, was settled last October when Lower Merion agreed to pay Blake Robbins $175,000 and cover $425,000 in court costs. On Monday, Joshua Levin, a 2009 graduate of Herriton High, charged the district with violating his civil rights and privacy by remotely activating the notebook's built-in camera to take photographs and screenshots. On Wednesday, Lower Merion spokesman Doug Young called Levin's lawsuit 'solely motivated by monetary interests and a complete waste of the taxpayer's dollars.' Levin begged to differ. According to his lawsuit, Lower Merion used his laptop to take more than 8,000 photographs and screenshots between September 2008 and March 2009. A district report uncovered more than 30,000 photographs and 27,000 screenshots taken. Last June, lawyers made photos and screenshots available for viewing by the 76 affected students. 'Plaintiff opted to view the recovered images, and was shocked, humiliated and severely emotionally distressed at what he saw,' Levin's lawsuit stated."
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School District Hit With New Mac Spying Lawsuit

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  • by Rewind (138843) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:39PM (#36380524) Homepage
    Did he never notice the webcam light turning on? It is kind of hard to miss on all the Mac laptops I have seen.
  • by xMrFishx (1956084) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:42PM (#36380556)
    Only if you're looking in its direction. If it's also on for only a short period (to take a photo) then you will probably not notice, or consider it a random hardware glitch. I'd hope the light was hardwired so couldn't be overridden by software, but that's also a possibility.
  • by TommydCat (791543) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:42PM (#36380562) Homepage
    I believe the pervs in IT were thinking of the children when they activated the webcams...
  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:47PM (#36380618)

    Whoever modded you "troll" is an idiot. Clearly you were being sarcastic.

    The irony is that the government doesn't want us to spy on Their actions (think wikileaks and learning the Mrs. Clinton was stealin credit card numbers), but when the government spies on us then it's okay.

    It's for the children. Or for anti-terrorism. If they were honest they'd admit it's for their own desire to Control the masses, as the nobility has always done.

  • Kiddie pron? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CCarrot (1562079) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:50PM (#36380642)

    I'm an adult (no really, I am) and even I sometimes use my laptops without being, er, fully ready to meet the public, as it were*.

    Unless I miss my guess, a whole lot of these images would probably fall under the 'kiddie porn' category. I didn't RTFA, did they mention that in there? That bumps this issue up to a criminal court at least...even if someone is reviewing the images as they come in and 'deleting' the improper ones (wouldn't PedoBear love that job!), they've still been created, and viewed.

    *Of course I also have a little piece of electrical tape over each and every one of my laptop webcams. Try to hack that!

  • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:51PM (#36380656)
    And your point is what? That violation of privacy is okay so long as a LED is involved? That it's okay to violate the privacy of people who aren't paying enough attention?
  • Blame it on IT (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Luthair (847766) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:53PM (#36380682)

    Does it seem to anyone else that they're trying to shift blame onto the IT folks?

    While I know nothing about the details of the report, or really the case beyond what has surfaced on Slashdot.... I find it hard to believe that the IT folks would be the ones directing which students to take pictures of, it seems that this direction would come from their superiors, the administration.

  • Motivation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:54PM (#36380694)
    He's motivated by money? Well, yeah, but he's also right and I imagine the school district will be cutting another cheque. His motivation for filing the suit doesn't matter - all that matters is whether or not he's right and, as has been made clear, odds are very good that he is.
  • by DanTheStone (1212500) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:56PM (#36380704)
    Why do you feel this case is wrong? Suing the hell out of the people who do these things is the only effective way to discourage others, if the state isn't going to imprison those responsible.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:58PM (#36380720)

    This doesn't seem like the kind of thing that should be solved by monetary re-imbursment.

    There should be a federal investigation, and everyone who decided to spy on school kids, as well as everyone who was aware this was going on but didn't report it to the police, should be charged and possibly sent to prison.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @05:03PM (#36380746) Journal

    I find it odd that this school district would be taking pictures of students and their houses using this webcam. As sucky as it is that this is going to mean a hit to taxpayers, I think these guys need to lose very badly and for very substantial amounts of money, because, judging by the attitude of their representatives, they are unapologetic assholes. If they won't make good on a reasonable settlement for their ill deeds, then maybe a judge can spank them hard, and the plaintiffs can use this sort of attitude to demonstrate to the judge the kind of people running the IT department of this place.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @05:08PM (#36380788) Journal

    Let me get this straight. School district staff turn on webcams and start taking pictures and screenshots, apparently 30,000 images worth, without authorization by parents (these are minors, they have no right, even if they had been told, to sign off on this spying scheme). You're attitude is that this is "money grabbing". If it was my kids, not only would I want a pile of cash to teach the school board a lesson, I'd want the weirdos tried in criminal court.

  • by networkBoy (774728) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @05:08PM (#36380792) Homepage Journal

    I'm with you, except I would like to see the case filed against individuals in the district:
    Principal of the school
    everyone on the school board
    head of IT
    school superintendent.

    All of those individuals *had* to know what was going on, and any one of them could have *stopped* it cold. They are the culpable ones and should face both civil and criminal charges. They can not claim I was following orders, because they are the ones that make the orders.
    -nB

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @05:12PM (#36380844) Journal

    If it was John Q. Sicko of 222 Anystreet Anytown USA, right now he'd be rotting behind bars while the the DA was deciding whether to charge him with possession of 10,000 porn images of minors or 15,000. But because they are employees of the school board in question, the victims of this are instead accused of being immoral money grubbing bastards.

    Someone needs to sue these guys for millions. It's about the only way the assholes that run this shoddy little branch of government will get the point that what happened was not alright. I'd prefer criminal proceedings and sex offender designations for whoever was storing those images, but it's clear the school board is not interested in doing the right thing here, and the DA isn't interested in actually taking on some sickos, so the only route to justice is to turn the school board upside down and shake the money out of its pockets.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @05:13PM (#36380854) Journal

    This doesn't seem like the kind of thing that should be solved by monetary re-imbursment.

    There should be a federal investigation, and everyone who decided to spy on school kids, as well as everyone who was aware this was going on but didn't report it to the police, should be charged and possibly sent to prison.

    That would be the way it should go, but it doesn't seem there's even the least bit of interest in a criminal investigation. The plaintiffs are left but one recourse now, and that's a civil remedy.

  • Re:Motivation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RingDev (879105) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @05:14PM (#36380862) Homepage Journal

    Consider it motivation for you, the tax payer, to pay attention to, or to become part of your local school board. Since most school funding is provided through property taxes, you DO have local control.

    -Rick

  • Troll (Score:3, Insightful)

    by formfeed (703859) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @05:20PM (#36380914)

    Whoever modded you "troll" is an idiot.

    No surprise there. I looked at some of my comment mods and it alternated between "funny" and "troll" for quite some time. Once it hits "+4 funny" the troll mods stop. Maybe clue starts to hit at that level: "Oh, 4 people thought this is funny. Maybe I should read it again and look for irony markers." Just odd that that doesn't happen at "+2 funny" already. I suggest a new mod-point: "+-0 I don't get it". It doesn't mod it up or down, but gets rid of a mod point.

  • by sortius_nod (1080919) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @05:31PM (#36381096) Homepage

    Pretty much it. Crying about how it's a "hit to taxpayers" really doesn't look bad for the plaintiffs. If the school had not decided to infringe on someone's human rights, well, there would be no case to answer. I hate seeing this bullshit being trotted out by lawyers and politicians all the time. Take some responsibility and deal with the problem. Blaming others just makes the general population loathe you.

  • Re:Motivation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by formfeed (703859) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @05:42PM (#36381234)

    The School District==The Taxpayer==Me. Great. Another check for me to write and I had nothing to do with it.

    And if live in that city that check comes out of your property tax. Which would make you unhappy. Hopefully, the consequence would be to go after the people responsible for it. Hint: not the student.

  • by statusbar (314703) <jeffk@statusbar.com> on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:18PM (#36381638) Homepage Journal

    If any children were photographed by the school while taking off their clothes at home for bedtime, then the guilty employees should be charged with collecting child pornography.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @07:08PM (#36382124)
    If one of us sneaked a camera into someone's home and took pictures, I guarantee we would go to prison for it. One of our civilizations greatest failings is the way our legal system treats kids. In the southern US it is still legal for schools to sexually assault [nospank.net] their students. The Supreme Court's answer is always that "the Constitution does apply but..." followed by some senile hand-waving to excuse forced strip searches, beatings or any other gross violation of human rights the school wants. The reality is our legal system treats children like property. Kids would have more rights if they were prisoners. -Posting comment a 2nd time because the first one seems to have disappeared
  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @07:11PM (#36382150)

    I think these guys need to lose very badly and for very substantial amounts of money, because, judging by the attitude of their representatives, they are unapologetic assholes.

    No, what needs to happen is that they need to "pierce the corporate[/government] veil," so to speak, and criminally prosecute the people who made the decision to do this as the voyeurs they are!

    Fining the school district for very substantial amounts of money (to dissuade them from hiring sick totalitarian fucks again in the future) should be merely the icing, not the whole cake.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @08:55PM (#36382882)

    On Wednesday, Lower Merion spokesman Doug Young called Levin's lawsuit 'solely motivated by monetary interests and a complete waste of the taxpayer's dollars.'

    I'm appalled by the sheer lack of concern of the privacy issue raised by this lawsuit, and the respect for students indicated by this official statement. I'd start a campaign to vote out the current admin if my children were given this kind of treatment.

    The arrogance of a typical school's administrative personnel is not to be believed. Really, it's just over the top.

Recent research has tended to show that the Abominable No-Man is being replaced by the Prohibitive Procrastinator. -- C.N. Parkinson

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