Spycam suit: Photos, e-mail show snooping

In response to a lawsuit charging school-issued laptops were used as spycams, Lower Merion School District has turned over photos showing 15-year-old Blake Robbins partially undressed and sleeping in bed, excerpts of online chats and information on web sites visited. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

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.

The remote monitoring system was supposed to be used to track lost or stolen laptops. The district says the camera was turned on because Robbins had failed to pay the $55 insurance fee required to take the laptop home.

His parents’ suit claims district records show more than 400 photos and screen images from their son’s laptop during two weeks last fall, plus “thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots” of  “numerous other students in their homes.”

Robbins and his parents say they first learned of the technology on Nov. 11, when an assistant Harriton principal confronted the teen with an image collected by the tracking software.

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

School officials could have demanded that Robbins return the laptop or pay the insurance fee without taking a single photo — much less 400 — to prove he’d taken it home. There is no excuse for tracking his web use or online chats.

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