Philadelphia Inquirer: Lawyer: Laptops Took Thousands of Images
The system that Lower Merion school officials used to track lost and stolen laptops wound up secretly capturing thousands of images, including photographs of students in their homes, Web sites they visited, and excerpts of their online chats, says a new motion filed in a suit against the district.
More than once, the motion asserts, the camera on Robbins’ school-issued laptop took photos of Robbins as he slept in his bed. Each time, it fired the images off to network servers at the school district.
Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into “a little LMSD soap opera,” a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.
“I know, I love it,” she is quoted as having replied.
Those details, disclosed in the motion filed late Thursday in federal court by Robbins’ attorney, offer a wider glimpse into the now-disabled program that spawned Robbins’ lawsuit and has shined an international spotlight on the district.
Well, after breaking this story nationwide on February 17, I’ve been forced to take a back seat and learn about everything from the media as the rest of you have. I knew it might happen, as it’s a matter of having extra time in the day, which I do not.
Nevertheless, this isn’t about me, or about America’s Right. This is about a situation rapidly unraveling for the folks in the Lower Merion School District. This new motion, as well as the photo released to the Philadelphia Inquirer, shows that the school district is much deeper in this than it originally wanted to admit.
Remember, on the day after the story first broke here at America’s Right and circulated around the Internet at breakneck speed, the principal at Harriton High School took to the loudspeaker in the morning and denied every accusation leveled by Blake Robbins and his family.
And then there was an official statement released later that day on February 18, in which the school district admitted to remote access capability and lack of notice given to students and parents, but also unequivocally stated the following:
• How did the security feature work?
Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the District’s security and technology departments. The tracking-security feature was limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator’s screen. This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever.
And then, of course, two days after that the school district again reiterated that the web cam feature was only used in the rare case that a computer was reported lost or stolen. That was the day when it first came out that Robbins first became aware of the spying when an administrator presented him with a photograph of him enjoying Mike & Ike candies in his own home and accused him of using illegal drugs.
The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever? Oops. So, I guess it was necessary to take hundreds of images of Blake Robbins and, presumably, other Lower Merion students because they might, in the future, theoretically be able to allow their laptops to be possibly stolen?
And would observing the “little LMSD soap opera” not fall under that “any other matter” explanation?
If there’s any Lower Merion School District “soap opera” going on, it’s in the form of the information steadily trickling out about the district’s disturbing practice.