Student laptops deliver thousands of private images to school district

Remember the story from February where a high school sophomore and his family alleged the school district was using laptop Web cameras – issued by the school – to monitor students by taking pictures when the computers were on at home? It gets worse…

Here’s my original post on the subject with most of the history. Philly.com has more in a story published yesterday. This will not go over with the kids or the families. Remember …

First of all, when you get free stuff from the school system – the government – remember, it’s not yours.

From the Philly.com story, with my emphasis in bold.

Laptop webcam image alledgedly taken by the Lower Merion School District showing Blake Robbins sleeping at home.

The system that Lower Merion school officials used to track lost and stolen laptops wound up secretly capturing thousands of images, including photographs of students in their homes, Web sites they visited, and excerpts of their online chats, says a new motion filed in a suit against the district.

More than once, the motion asserts, the camera on Robbins’ school-issued laptop took photos of Robbins as he slept in his bed. Each time, it fired the images off to network servers at the school district.

Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into “a little LMSD soap opera,” a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.

I know, I love it,” she is quoted as having replied. …

Robbins has said one image showed him with a handful of Mike and Ike candies – which the administrator thought were illegal pills.

This statement may refer to the allegation that a school administrator approached the student with a photo and targeted him as an illegal drug user or distributor. The letter from the superintendent does not match the complaint or the information in the press so far.

The family’s lawyers have argued that neither Blake nor many of the other students whose laptop cameras were activated had reported those laptops missing or stolen. According to the motion, an unspecified number of laptops were being tracked because students had failed to return computers or pay a required insurance fee.

The district has said it turned on the camera in Robbins’ computer because his family had not paid the $55 insurance fee and he was not authorized to take the laptop home.

This shall not go well for the school administration. My guess is heads will roll, and the municipality will be paying out big time. These were not stolen laptops, they took advantage of the fact some kids did not pay the $55 insurance fee and turned on the software. They knew they were not stolen.

The system that Lower Merion school officials used to track lost and stolen laptops wound up secretly capturing thousands of images, including photographs of students in their homes, Web sites they visited, and excerpts of their online chats, says a new motion filed in a suit against the district.

More than once, the motion asserts, the camera on Robbins’ school-issued laptop took photos of Robbins as he slept in his bed. Each time, it fired the images off to network servers at the school district.

Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into “a little LMSD soap opera,” a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.

“I know, I love it,” she is quoted as having replied.

5 replies
  1. donh
    donh says:

    Thank you steve for having the courage to report this unthinkable horror. What an Orwellian knightmare we are living through. Who authored this pervert policy Safe School Czar Kevin Jennings ? The problems this society is having with child porn and internet sleaze… to think that our own school systems could be a pipeline for this  kind of sewage. Oh …but the media wants to attack the Pope every day as some kind of child rapist , but not  a word to say about this loathesome child abuse in our schools. Fines are not acceptable. Justice requires nothing less than prison and sex offender status for those responsible.

  2. Anne-EH
    Anne-EH says:

    One of the sad sign of the times when Americans are dealing more and more with an out-of-control government, on ALL levels. Stuff like this reduces people's CONFIDENCE in goverment.

  3. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    It is the Obama "paternalism" all over again.  Much as the government "helped" the banks, and put all those bureaucratic strings on the loans, the schools doled out laptops with with their own strings: spyware that was used to invade their privacy.

     

    Beware of bureaucrats bearing gifts!

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