05/16/2010 08:23:00 AM EST
Webcam Activations on Student Laptops by Philadelphia School District Enjoined by Pennsylvania District Court
PHILADELPHIA — (Mealey’s) A Pennsylvania federal judge on May 14 barred a suburban Philadelphia school district from continuing to remotely activate webcams on laptops issued to students (Blake J. Robbins, et al. v. Lower Merion School District, et al., No. 10-665, E.D. Pa.).
Lower Merion School District is accused, in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by student Blake Robbins and his parents, of providing 1,800 students with laptop computers with webcams that could be activated at any time by teachers and school administrators to spy on students and their families in their homes.
The plaintiffs claim that students and parents were never warned in the documentation that came with the laptops that the School District has the ability to remotely activate the embedded webcam any time the district wished to intercept images of anyone or anything appearing in front of the camera.
The plaintiffs claim that Blake became aware of the alleged intrusion when an assistant principal confronted him with a photo taken from the webcam that the school official claimed revealed “improper behavior” that Blake is alleged to have engaged in while at home.
In the injunction, Judge Jan E. DuBois stipulated that the school district may no longer remotely activate the webcams except as needed for maintenance, repairs or troubleshooting.
[Editor's Note: Full coverage will be in the May 20 issue of Mealey’s Litigation Report: Data and Identity Security. In the meantime, the order is available at www.mealeysonline.com or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844. Document #74-100528-010R. For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]
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