"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Constant Surveillance at Lower Merion School District

From HuffPo:

It's a story that won't go away. Last week the family of 15-year-old Blake Robbins filed a lawsuit against Lower Merion School District near Philadelphia, alleging that the school district activated the Webcam in the student's school-issued MacBook to photograph him in his own home. The school district admitted that it did have the capacity to remotely turn on Webcams and said that it did so 42 times in the past 14 months, but only to "locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student."

In a civil complaint (PDF), the Robbins family claims that an assistant principal at the district's Harriton High School accused young Blake of using drugs and cited as evidence a photograph of him taken in his own home via the Mac Webcam. Blake said that the "pills" he was accused of taking were Mike and Ike candies.

Subsequent to all of the hubbub over the case, the district pledged to stop activating the cameras even in the event of a suspected theft and that decision was reinforced on Monday when a federal judge ordered the school to stop activating the cameras. The judge also ordered them to stop taking screenshots from the computers and to preserve all data on the computers pertaining to the alleged Webcam photos. The judge didn't issue an injunction because the school district consented to the ruling.

. . . .

The blog Styde Hax has a summary including student reaction. You can download the webcast here.

The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI on Monday said that they are investigating whether the district violated federal privacy laws.

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