from ars technica
School-issued laptops are becoming more and more common these days, but thanks to the action of one high school, students and parents might have second thoughts about bringing them home. The parents of a Pennsylvania high school student, Blake J. Robbins, have filed a lawsuit against his school district after discovering that school officials had allegedly been remotely accessing the laptop in order to take webcam photos of the students at home (via BoingBoing). There are a number of unanswered questions about this story, but if true, it could mean serious penalties for the Lower Merion School District.
According to the complaint, the school in question (Harriton High School) had issued laptops equipped with built-in webcams to every student so that they could have “24/7 access to school based resources” and the ability to work seamlessly between school and home when it comes to research and projects. In November of 2009, however, Robbins was disciplined by the Assistant Principal of his school, Lindy Matsko, for engaging in “improper behavior” in his home. At that time, Matsko cited a photograph from the built-in webcam on the laptop.
Robbins’ father Michael supposedly confirmed with Matsko that the school has the ability to remotely activate the webcam “at any time it chose to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam.” Needless to say, Robbins’ parents were outraged at this development, as neither the school nor the district had told parents about this capability. As a result, the Robbins have filed a class-action lawsuit against the district, charging it with interception of electronic communications under the ECPA, theft of intellectual property under the CFAA, violations of the Stored Communications Act, violations of the Civil Rights Act, invasions of privacy, and violations of the Pennsylvania wiretapping and electronic surveillance act.