If your school has issued your child a laptop, you might reconsider letting them use it in your home.
Harriton High School student Blake Robbins and his parents, Michael and Holly Robbins, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday against the district, its board of directors and McGinley. They accused the school of turning on the webcam in his computer while it was inside their Penn Valley home, which they allege violated wiretap laws and his right to privacy.
The suit, which seeks class-action status, alleges that Harriton vice principal Lindy Matsko on Nov. 11 cited a laptop photo in telling Blake that the school thought he was engaging in improper behavior. He and his family have told reporters that an official mistook a piece of candy for a pill and thought he was selling drugs.
The district’s Web site said 42 activations of the system resulted in the recovery of 18 computers, not 28 as district spokesman Doug Young had said earlier. They reiterated that it was done only to locate lost, stolen or missing laptops.
“The district has not used the tracking feature or webcam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever,” the Web site said. The site also noted that there was nothing to prevent students from covering the webcam with tape.
McGinley said the district had hired former federal prosecutor Henry Hockeimer Jr. to review past practices and suggest improvements.
The FBI is looking into whether any federal wiretap or computer-intrusion laws were violated, according to an official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the investigation. Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman has said she might also investigate.
So, the district did not use the remote web cam feature for any other purpose but to track stolen laptops? Then how did the vice principal end up with a photo of a kid in his home holding a Mike & Ike candy? I suspect that the web cams on these laptops have been used by school administrators for much more than tracking stolen lap tops, obviously. Part of the investigation by the FBI should include pulling all of the access logs for the web cams and the users who were logged on when the web cams were accessed. All of them should be criminally investigated for privacy violations.
And the Montgomery County District Attorney has said she might also investigate. Might? Had the situation been reversed and a student had accessed web cams on a laptop owned by a school administrator they probably would have sent the SWAT team to arrest him. What ever happened to ‘zero tolerance’? You know, those asinine policies that send 7 year olds to juvenile hall in handcuffs because they bring a spork to lunch?
School’s like to set examples with students, even for minor infractions. It’s time for the FBI and local prosecutors to set an example.
Security note to our readers: If you’ve been issued a lap top from work, you may have the same type of software on your computer. As we move forward in the 21st century, expect to see more stories like this in the media. Governments, employers, schools — they all want to know what you’re doing in the privacy of your own home. And by bringing home a lap top with a web cam and microphone on it, you are giving them the digital key to your home.
The Orwellian society does not have to by pushed upon us — we have readily accepted it.