The school district that logged 13,000 photos of students’ homes

The Webcam security program of a Pennsylvania school district being sued by parents for spying on students with school-supplied laptops captured “nearly 13,000 images” of the insides of students’ homes, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. But a report presented at a school board meeting this week said that “there’s no evidence” the district used the laptops to spy on students “despite its questionable policies and its lack of regard for students’ privacy,” the Washington Post reported. According to the Inquirer, school technicians in the Lower Merion School District were to activate the Webcams whenever a laptop was reported lost or stolen, and the lawyer for the district said that Webcams were activated 146 times in the last two school years (upon activation, the Webcams would snap photos every 15 minutes till they were turned off). “In 48 of those activations, images were recovered; 68 showed only the computer’s Internet address. The rest showed nothing or could not be recovered. The images included photos of students, pictures inside their homes, and copies of the programs or files on their screens, the investigators said,” the Inquirer reported. Usually the technicians turned the auto-snapping system off once a laptop was located, but “in at least five instances, school employees let the Web cams keep clicking for days or weeks after students found their missing laptops,” which accounts for the 13,000 photos. None of the photos were inappropriate, reportedly, but in the case of the family suing the district, a student was confronted because of a photo taken in his bedroom. The student said “the photo shows him with a handful of Mike & Ike candies, but that the assistant principal thought they were drugs.” See the Inquirer article for one of the photos taken of Robbins sleeping. [Here’s my earlier post on this story.]

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