Students to see photos snapped in US school 'spying' case

Judge lets students view the nearly 58,000 images before parents get their chance

Students in two suburban Philadelphia high schools will be allowed to view photographs taken by their school-issued laptops, and may preview them first before deciding which images their parents may see, according to a court order issued Friday.

In the order, U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Thomas Rueter said that certified letters would be sent to students who had been photographed when their Apple MacBooks' cameras had been activated by IT personnel of Lower Merion School District.

Lower Merion was sued in mid-February by Michael and Holly Robbins, and their teenage son Blake, a high school student at Harriton High School, after an assistant principal accused Blake of selling drugs and taking pills, and used a snapshot taken by his computer as evidence. Robbins claimed the pictures showed him eating candy.

The district took more than 30,000 photographs using the students' Webcams, and another 27,000 screenshots using software designed to track lost, missing or stolen laptops, according to a report commissioned by Lower Merion.

That report laid most of the blame on the district's IT staff for the excessive photo taking using its LANrev software.

According to the report, 76 different student laptops were told to capture photographs and screenshots in the last two school years.

The letters, which will also be mailed to affected students' parents or guardians, will indicate the date of Webcam activations, and the number of photographs and screenshots taken by each student's computer.

But the teenagers will be shown the images before parents.

"We are sending a notice similar to this one to your parents/guardians," Rueter's proposed letter read. "The District would like to give them an opportunity to view the images as well. But, you will be able to look at the images without your parent(s)/guardian(s) first, and if there are any image that you do not want them to see, you may let Judge Rueter know, and he will discuss with you how to handle the situation."

If the photographs or screenshots contain private information from others beside the student, the court will take steps to protect their interests, the letter added.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld . Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

Read more about privacy in Computerworld's Privacy Knowledge Center.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacy

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?