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School District Hit With New Mac Spying Lawsuit 330

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 gubers33 ( 1302099 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @05:52PM (#36380668)
    Funny that Lower Merion is about 30 minutes from where I grew up and my former high school was violating privacy as well through technology. According to reports I am hearing from my family and friend who live in the area there school employees making fake Facebook accounts to befriend students to look for incriminating photos. It seems that many schools forgot that they are there to teach the students and think it is there job to police and discipline them for their activities outside of the classroom. As technology grows so will the number of those who abuse it.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:02PM (#36380736)

    Whenever you get something for free, distrust it. Even if it's from someone you would trust otherwise.

    Your privacy is yours to defend. Everyone else is trying to limit it. Companies, governments, hell, I even know parents who think it's a good idea to spy on their kids all the time. Hey, do you know where your kids are now?

    My hope is, now that teenagers finally get to feel what level of blatant trespassing on privacy is happening, we might eventually get a generation that starts to oppose the development. It might take longer than "Generation Facebook", but I hope our powers that are do what they usually do: They overdo it to the point where people start to fight back.

  • Re:Blame it on IT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vancorps ( 746090 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:09PM (#36380806)

    As a recently promoted IT Manager from Sysadmin I can say that IT should have fought back. Spying is a dangerous game for anyone to play. Given the nature of trust granted to IT professionals privacy should always be a concern. Sometimes managers want to spy on their employees; to that I respond by asking them if they are happy with the work their employees are doing. If they are not happy then I suggest they talk to that employee about their performance, this usually happens with HR involved. I consulted with legal and it is now company policy. The only way we'll spy on you is if we think you're doing something illegal and luckily so far that hasn't come up.

    It is our duty to safeguard all users of the network, not just the executives. The case would only be more true in a public setting like a school and especially when kids are involved.

  • FBI blew it off. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pavon ( 30274 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:11PM (#36380826)

    The FBI did investigate and chose to not press any charges [], since they didn't have "criminal intent", which is of course bullshit. They broke the law, and there are penalties for illegal wiretapping, both with and without criminal intent.

  • Re:Kiddie pron? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:15PM (#36380868)

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

    The webcam switch on my Asus laptop also actuates a little mechanical shutter built in to the webcam housing. Now that is how you make a secure webcam switch. Doesn't matter if the camera is somehow hacked, a purely mechanical shutter like that isn't going anywhere unless I move it. It also doesn't leave any sticky residue on the lens.

  • by milwcoder ( 1132835 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:22PM (#36380934)

    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.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:33PM (#36381112) Homepage

    We can talk all day long about "fair" and "unfair" and on and on and never arrive at a conclusion. But "childhood" is a transitory state. The purpose of teaching children is to teach them to be good, useful people when they become adults. I think this amount of truth is indisputable.

    But by teaching them to accept being spied upon and to have no "expectation of privacy" or anything along these lines, what are we breeding? It is known that it is a human need to have privacy and a sense of self and in every case, the result is rebellion or some other undesirable result. We tend to think things like "it's our right to know" but is it our right to do that kind of psychological damage to these developing minds?

    In addition to teaching them math, language, science and history, we should also be teaching them about the world they are growing into and how to cope with it and what to expect from it. Sure, students shouldn't be doing things with school equipment that it was not intended for, but when the cost of having it (was it optional?) removes privacy and even dignity of the students AND their unsuspecting families, it is clear someone's sense of authority has gone beyond its boundaries. And once again, what does this say to the young mind?

    We keep seeing stories of how schools interfere with the private lives and dealings of students. There are and should be limits which at least mirror those we can expect to see in the work place. For example, "sexual harassment" can and does extend beyond the walls of the office building as does anything that creates a hostile work environment. Similarly, if a student harasses another student, it should be actionable by the school in some way. However, when it comes to things like "being critical of leadership" we need to treat school officials as if they were politicians in office and so when someone makes a mock-up web site for their principal and makes all sorts of "parody" types of claims, that sort of free speech needs to be protected in the same way. But these school leaders end up acting like tyrants and dictators or in ways that are inconsistent with our governmental and judicial ideals. That simply needs to stop.

    In the end "think of the children" because they are the adults of tomorrow. And you know what? Think of YOURSELF because those young bastards will be taking care of us in one way or another and the quality of that care depends largely on how well we take care of them now!

  • by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @08:11PM (#36382152) Homepage
    'Kay...convict them, then release them immediately on probation. But make absolutely sure that everyone involved in the decision-making process is required to register as a convicted sex offender.
  • by Afell001 ( 961697 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @09:16PM (#36382604)
    You know...if any of the students were caught nude, or even en flagrante...this could very well turn into criminal prosecution since any such pictures, taken of underage minors, is, in fact, child pornography. Let's lock up the sick bastards who would take snapshots of kids in various states of undress...and most expecially if they are caught in any sex acts with other minors...
  • by dissy ( 172727 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @10:07PM (#36382972)

    As sucky as it is that this is going to mean a hit to taxpayers

    It wouldn't be a hit to the tax payers if the individuals in administration that were involved with this got fined directly, instead of the school.

  • It's a bluff tactic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:15AM (#36383740)

    They have a right to say that. It doesn't have to be true, they're just hoping the plaintiff will say "Oh I see, well nevermind then" and back off.

    It's like how you see those signs on trucks that say "Not responsible for objects coming off the road." Or signs in parking lots saying "Not responsible for any damage to your vehicle." Or at the park "Not responsible for any missing or stolen items."

    They want you to believe that so you don't sue. When honestly it's up to the judge to determine if they are responsible or not. But if they can bluff you into not asking, bravo for them.

  • by macs4all ( 973270 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:15AM (#36385314)

    or ya know, tape

    Or even better, a jig that hangs on the lid, and has a mirror arrangement to arrange it so that all the camera ever sees (at home) is a goatse picture at just the right distance to be perfectly in focus...

    Hmm. What an idea for a product!

  • by anyGould ( 1295481 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @10:17AM (#36387682)

    If I remember the original articles last year, some people did notice the light blinking, brought it up with the school, and the school told them it was a glitch and that they should ignore it.

BLISS is ignorance.