School Uses MacBooks to Spy On Kids
A lawsuit has been filed
against a suburban Philadelphia school district accusing administrators of remotely activating the iSight cameras in school-provided MacBooks to spy on students in their homes. The school claims that it used the cameras only to determine the location of lost or stolen MacBooks, but one student was accused of selling drugs and shown a still picture taken from his iSight as evidence against him. The FBI is investigating the school.
About 1,800 students at the Lower Merion High School (where Kobe Bryant played basketball in the 90s) and Harriton High School across town were all issued MacBooks as part of a state and federally funded "one-to-one" laptop program. Student Blake Robbins was called into the Harriton High School principal's office last November and accused of "improper behavior in his home." He was shown an image that he was told had been taken by his notebook's embedded camera. The student's parents, Michael and Holly Robbins, then went to the assistant principal and complained that the school had never told them that the camera could be activated remotely. The assistant principal told the boy's father that the school claimed the right to turn on the iSight camera "at any time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the Webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of any persons then and there using the laptop computer," according to the lawsuit.
After the spying was revealed, the school acknowledged that it had activated students' cameras
42 times over a 14-month period, but insisted that each time it was done it was merely an attempt to locate a stolen or missing MacBook. The Robbins family accuses the school district of violating the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution as well as the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, and the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act. They are attempting to make the lawsuit a class action so that more of the 1,800 students can join in the lawsuit, which asks for unspecified monetary damages.
The school has not released any images or described what sorts of activities were photographed, but shocked students are upset about the invasion of their privacy and wondering wht they might have been seen doing. One girl says that she kept her MacBook open at all times, including when she was getting dressed and showering
, and is worried that the camera might have been activated on her MacBook at those times.