Case Study: 1
I’m watching you…
School-Issued Laptop “Spycam” Invades Privacy Rights
Harriton High School, located in a suburban Philadelphia school district, was accused of secretly switching on laptop computer webcams inside student’s homes. Laptops were provided to each student as part of state and federal funding secured by the technology department. Students were allowed to take home their laptops to take full advantage of generously supplied technology.
It wasn’t until Blake Robbins, a student at Harriton High School, was confronted by an assistant principle that problems began to arise. Robbins was accused of engaging in improper behavior (popping pills), which had been witnessed over the webcam on his school issued laptop. Students and their families were unaware the school distract had loaded software programs on the laptops that would allow the technology department to activate the webcam embedded on the laptop. The webcams allowed the technology department full visuals of the area in front of the laptop as well as any information that was on the computer screen (documents, websites, ect).The webcams were ultimately to be used as tracking devices in case the laptops were lost or stolen.
Blake Robbins and his parents filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the school district, its board of directors and the superintendent, Christopher McGinley. They accused the school of turning on the webcam while it was inside their home, which they alleged violated wiretap laws and his right to privacy. The biggest issue presented was the lack of information regarding the laptops and the embedded webcam which was provided in an “Acceptable Guidelines Document” that was to be signed by the parents of laptop using students. Although certain rules for the laptops were identified, there was not a single section of the document that mentioned the laptops contained security software that allowed a theft tracking webcam to be...