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School District Hit With New Mac Spying Lawsuit

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the history-repeating dept.

Privacy 330

CWmike writes "A former student at a suburban Philadelphia high school has sued his school district for allegedly spying on him and his family using a school-issued Mac laptop, according to court documents. The Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa. was first sued in February 2010 by another student using similar charges. That case, dubbed 'Spygate' in some reports, was settled last October when Lower Merion agreed to pay Blake Robbins $175,000 and cover $425,000 in court costs. On Monday, Joshua Levin, a 2009 graduate of Herriton High, charged the district with violating his civil rights and privacy by remotely activating the notebook's built-in camera to take photographs and screenshots. On Wednesday, Lower Merion spokesman Doug Young called Levin's lawsuit 'solely motivated by monetary interests and a complete waste of the taxpayer's dollars.' Levin begged to differ. According to his lawsuit, Lower Merion used his laptop to take more than 8,000 photographs and screenshots between September 2008 and March 2009. A district report uncovered more than 30,000 photographs and 27,000 screenshots taken. Last June, lawyers made photos and screenshots available for viewing by the 76 affected students. 'Plaintiff opted to view the recovered images, and was shocked, humiliated and severely emotionally distressed at what he saw,' Levin's lawsuit stated."

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330 comments

The webcam light... (3, Insightful)

Rewind (138843) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380524)

Did he never notice the webcam light turning on? It is kind of hard to miss on all the Mac laptops I have seen.

Re:The webcam light... (3, Insightful)

xMrFishx (1956084) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380556)

Only if you're looking in its direction. If it's also on for only a short period (to take a photo) then you will probably not notice, or consider it a random hardware glitch. I'd hope the light was hardwired so couldn't be overridden by software, but that's also a possibility.

Re:The webcam light... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380658)

I find it odd that there's no easy way to simply disable the camera. The only methods I've seen involve having to mess around with kernel extensions and the like.

Re:The webcam light... (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380746)

I find it odd that this school district would be taking pictures of students and their houses using this webcam. As sucky as it is that this is going to mean a hit to taxpayers, I think these guys need to lose very badly and for very substantial amounts of money, because, judging by the attitude of their representatives, they are unapologetic assholes. If they won't make good on a reasonable settlement for their ill deeds, then maybe a judge can spank them hard, and the plaintiffs can use this sort of attitude to demonstrate to the judge the kind of people running the IT department of this place.

Re:The webcam light... (4, Insightful)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381096)

Pretty much it. Crying about how it's a "hit to taxpayers" really doesn't look bad for the plaintiffs. If the school had not decided to infringe on someone's human rights, well, there would be no case to answer. I hate seeing this bullshit being trotted out by lawyers and politicians all the time. Take some responsibility and deal with the problem. Blaming others just makes the general population loathe you.

Re:The webcam light... (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380692)

The power LED on my Amiga can be overridden (turned off). I can't think of any reason a Macintosh camera LED would be any different. If there's a will, there's a hack for it.

Re:The webcam light... (1)

xMrFishx (1956084) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380760)

Of course, I was just theorising that it could be hardware enforced, such as being ANDed with, I don't know, Data-Bit0 to control a small circuit with a capacitor buffer of a few dt to prevent it flashing. That's just, some random arbitrary way it could be done that meant it was not controlled by anything other than data being transmitted, and not some software toggle. Personally, that sort of implementation should be mandatory for webcams for this reason. Of course it stops nothing, but it does aid informing the user (if they are even informed of the purpose of the light in the first place).

Re:The webcam light... (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381176)

The LED is hardwired - if the power to the camera is on, so is the LED. The only way to prevent this is to physically modify the laptop, which is not outside the realms of possibility, but it *cannot* be disabled in software.

Re:The webcam light... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36381416)

Well, possibly but then the Amiga's floppy drive was hackable to the point people made pretty bad music with it. Doesn't follow that all floppy drives worked the same way - in fact most don't.

Re:The webcam light... (3, Informative)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381198)

It is. All iSight cameras on Mac laptops have hardwired LEDs. You can't disable the light in software.

Re:The webcam light... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380574)

Did he never notice the webcam light turning on? It is kind of hard to miss on all the Mac laptops I have seen.

Read the article, his brother noticed it turning on, his mom even joked about the school possibly spying on them

Re:The webcam light... (5, Informative)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380578)

' "Plaintiff's younger brother noticed that the light in the camera would go off and on at odd times, wondering if the family was being 'spied on.' Plaintiff's mother dismissed this idea as absurd, as the notion that the school district was secretly monitoring and taking pictures of students was simply incomprehensible and beyond all rational belief." '

Answered in the article. The thought that the school district was spying on them was dismissed as ludicrous. And, in fairness, it is practically insane. Rather than lawsuits and payouts, though (which punishes the wrong people), I'd prefer just to fire everyone in management at the school.

Re:The webcam light... (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380608)

Rather than lawsuits and payouts, though (which punishes the wrong people), I'd prefer just to fire everyone in management at the school.

Surely the best solution would be to make the people who made these decisions pay the damages? To encourage the others, and all that.

Re:The webcam light... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380754)

Unfortunately, they'll be protected as employees. The school board will take the heat for this one, and not without justification, seeing as someone at the very least had their head buried firmly up their asses.

Re:The webcam light... (3, Informative)

rsborg (111459) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381128)

Unfortunately, they'll be protected as employees. The school board will take the heat for this one, and not without justification, seeing as someone at the very least had their head buried firmly up their asses.

Why should the school board allow this travesty of privacy? Let them suffer or have them recommend the firing of the guilty employees.

Re:The webcam light... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36381394)

I don't understand why there's been no criminal prosecution for these morons... also, since this is a public school, this is a state action, which means that they've also violated civil rights.

Re:The webcam light... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380714)

Fire them!?

Why is it that whenever someone does anything incredibly illegal on the job on behalf of ones employer in public service, the best one can hope for is that they're fired?

The individuals in question should be prosecuted just like any other creepy people spying on children.

Re:The webcam light... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380586)

RTFA:

"Plaintiff's younger brother noticed that the light in the camera would go off and on at odd times, wondering if the family was being 'spied on.' Plaintiff's mother dismissed this idea as absurd, as the notion that the school district was secretly monitoring and taking pictures of students was simply incomprehensible and beyond all rational belief."

Re:The webcam light... (2)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380598)

In the original case, the students were told by the teachers that it was probably a hardware glitch, and not to worry about it. Or tell anybody, ever.

Re:The webcam light... (1)

SpiralSpirit (874918) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380616)

who says the webcam light does come on? I'm pretty sure a commercially developed spyware application could find a way around it.

Re:The webcam light... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380666)

It did come on, but I'd imagine that the light is designed not to be controlled by the software.

Re:The webcam light... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380648)

You're assuming a fair lot here.

1. That they were not told that this is normal or possibly a hardware glitch.
2. That they know what "webcam lights" are. Personally, I wouldn't know, but then, I never owned a Mac.
3. That in either case they read the manual.
4. That this light cannot be disabled, if everything fails, by snipping the power cables or physically destroying them before handing them to students.

Bluntly, if I tried to spy on someone and there's something in my spy device that would give it away, I'd make sure to disable what I can, tell them that "it's normal" for everything I cannot (especially when my subjects are most likely trusting me) and for the rest I rely on general technical cluelessness.

Re:The webcam light... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380758)

2. That they know what "webcam lights" are. Personally, I wouldn't know, but then, I never owned a Mac.

Macs aren't the only computers with webcams or lights that show the webcam is operating. Every built in and external webcam I've seen has an LED that show if it's working.

Re:The webcam light... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380796)

Or "disabled" by simply having the webcam on all the time. Oh that light? It just glows, like the Apple logo on the back just glows...

Re:The webcam light... (5, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380656)

And your point is what? That violation of privacy is okay so long as a LED is involved? That it's okay to violate the privacy of people who aren't paying enough attention?

Re:The webcam light... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380734)

Never use a school issued laptop anywhere but school. :) That way, you're not playing in their "sandbox."

Re:The webcam light... (1)

CSFFlame (761318) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380660)

Yes the light blinks for a splitsecond and is hardwired. Their IT dept told the students it was a glitch. The geeks didn't believe them and put electrical tape over the cameras. People made fun of them...

Re:The webcam light... (1)

shacky003 (1595307) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380728)

Most LoJack/spy style software for laptops override the light - The cameras and lights are completely independent of one another, and may be controlled via software separately.. These types of lawsuits would have come up a few years ago had anyone known the cams were being turned on remotely..

Re:The webcam light... (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381226)

Not these lights - if the camera is powered up, so is the light. Only way to stop that is to modify it physically. You can't turn it off with software.

What's the problem with being monitored? (5, Funny)

jmcbain (1233044) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380534)

If you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. In this post-9/11 world, you have to relinquish some of your rights to live more safely. Think of the children.

Re:What's the problem with being monitored? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380558)

I am thinking of the children... I'm thinking of them changing clothes in their bedrooms with their laptop open.

Re:What's the problem with being monitored? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380856)

You're thinking of children changing clothes in their bedrooms....perv

Re:What's the problem with being monitored? (5, Insightful)

TommydCat (791543) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380562)

I believe the pervs in IT were thinking of the children when they activated the webcams...

Re:What's the problem with being monitored? (1, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380618)

Whoever modded you "troll" is an idiot. Clearly you were being sarcastic.

The irony is that the government doesn't want us to spy on Their actions (think wikileaks and learning the Mrs. Clinton was stealin credit card numbers), but when the government spies on us then it's okay.

It's for the children. Or for anti-terrorism. If they were honest they'd admit it's for their own desire to Control the masses, as the nobility has always done.

Troll (2, Insightful)

formfeed (703859) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380914)

Whoever modded you "troll" is an idiot.

No surprise there. I looked at some of my comment mods and it alternated between "funny" and "troll" for quite some time. Once it hits "+4 funny" the troll mods stop. Maybe clue starts to hit at that level: "Oh, 4 people thought this is funny. Maybe I should read it again and look for irony markers." Just odd that that doesn't happen at "+2 funny" already. I suggest a new mod-point: "+-0 I don't get it". It doesn't mod it up or down, but gets rid of a mod point.

Re:What's the problem with being monitored? (1)

blind monkey 3 (773904) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380840)

If you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. In this post-9/11 world, you have to relinquish some of your rights to live more safely. Think of the children.

Hmm, perhaps the school should have argued they were "lookin' fer terrists". The students complaining would have been strung up as bin laden lovers.
Oops, wrong state - my bad.

Re:What's the problem with being monitored? (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380852)

That isn't a justification for open disregard for people's rights. Nor is it justification for allowing criminals to run rampant. Try again, part of the problem.

Haters gonna hate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380572)

Masters gonna bate

Piece of Tape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380594)

Black electrical tape over the camera would be hard to notice and keep the perverts on the IT staff out.

judges need to say no (-1, Troll)

Bizzeh (851225) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380632)

we need some judges to step up and do two things.

clarify privacy laws.
throw out bullshit money grabbing court cases such as this.

the world would be a better place without this stupid american "get rich quick" scam of suing anyone who looks at you in a funny way

Re:judges need to say no (4, Insightful)

DanTheStone (1212500) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380704)

Why do you feel this case is wrong? Suing the hell out of the people who do these things is the only effective way to discourage others, if the state isn't going to imprison those responsible.

Re:judges need to say no (4, Insightful)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380792)

I'm with you, except I would like to see the case filed against individuals in the district:
Principal of the school
everyone on the school board
head of IT
school superintendent.

All of those individuals *had* to know what was going on, and any one of them could have *stopped* it cold. They are the culpable ones and should face both civil and criminal charges. They can not claim I was following orders, because they are the ones that make the orders.
-nB

Re:judges need to say no (1)

formfeed (703859) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381084)

They can not claim I was following orders, because they are the ones that make the orders.

But they can claim that the student is pursuing this just for the money:
"Today, Lower Merion spokesman Doug Young called Levin's lawsuit 'solely motivated by monetary interests and a complete waste of the taxpayer's dollars.'"

These people need personal consequences, otherwise they'll use their position to pitch this as a We-the-taxpayers versus greedy student story.

Long term fix: Privacy laws with legal consequences and contractual consequences such as demotions, loss of tenure, income, or job.
Short term fix: Was the student underage? In his bed room? Not fully dressed? - Just saying.

Re:judges need to say no (2)

Sicily1918 (912141) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380768)

Hmmmm...

clarify privacy laws.

Really? You actually need to clarify that it's an invasion to take clandestine pics inside someone's home? Christ, it'd be less of an invasion if they'd sent a photographer to shoot through the curtains at night!

Re:judges need to say no (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380788)

Let me get this straight. School district staff turn on webcams and start taking pictures and screenshots, apparently 30,000 images worth, without authorization by parents (these are minors, they have no right, even if they had been told, to sign off on this spying scheme). You're attitude is that this is "money grabbing". If it was my kids, not only would I want a pile of cash to teach the school board a lesson, I'd want the weirdos tried in criminal court.

Re:judges need to say no (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380858)

Generally I'd agree with you if we'd be talking about another "stupid person" doing something "stupid" that got someone else some money. Like repeating the McD coffee cup stunt or sticking another poodle in the microwave. This is, though, exactly the same issue, exactly the same offense and, well, please explain to me why only the first to discover some crime against him which was perpetrated against hundreds if not thousands should be allowed to get compensation. Should only the researcher that found out about Sony's rootkit get compensated while every other damaged customer should go home empty handed, maybe with the expense of having an expert fixing his computer?

Kiddie pron? (3, Insightful)

CCarrot (1562079) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380642)

I'm an adult (no really, I am) and even I sometimes use my laptops without being, er, fully ready to meet the public, as it were*.

Unless I miss my guess, a whole lot of these images would probably fall under the 'kiddie porn' category. I didn't RTFA, did they mention that in there? That bumps this issue up to a criminal court at least...even if someone is reviewing the images as they come in and 'deleting' the improper ones (wouldn't PedoBear love that job!), they've still been created, and viewed.

*Of course I also have a little piece of electrical tape over each and every one of my laptop webcams. Try to hack that!

Re:Kiddie pron? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380868)

*Of course I also have a little piece of electrical tape over each and every one of my laptop webcams. Try to hack that!

The webcam switch on my Asus laptop also actuates a little mechanical shutter built in to the webcam housing. Now that is how you make a secure webcam switch. Doesn't matter if the camera is somehow hacked, a purely mechanical shutter like that isn't going anywhere unless I move it. It also doesn't leave any sticky residue on the lens.

Re:Kiddie pron? (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381132)

It also doesn't leave any sticky residue on the lens.

Tape a black piece of cloth over it. Or anything else dark.

Re:Kiddie pron? (1)

CCarrot (1562079) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381402)

The webcam switch on my Asus laptop also actuates a little mechanical shutter built in to the webcam housing.

Very cool! I will watch out for that feature for my next laptop purchase...Asus you say?

Re:Kiddie pron? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380886)

Probably. In this hysterical society anything in regards to foreigners, terrorism, or pedophiles could be prosecuted without regard for the facts of the case. The thing is in this case the thing they were after was money. You also have to remember that the criminal justice system would have to get involved and they are on the same side as the school officials who were involved.

Schools violating privacy all the time (5, Interesting)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380668)

Funny that Lower Merion is about 30 minutes from where I grew up and my former high school was violating privacy as well through technology. According to reports I am hearing from my family and friend who live in the area there school employees making fake Facebook accounts to befriend students to look for incriminating photos. It seems that many schools forgot that they are there to teach the students and think it is there job to police and discipline them for their activities outside of the classroom. As technology grows so will the number of those who abuse it.

Child indecency? (1)

Daniel_is_Legnd (1447519) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380672)

So if they were to 'accidentally' take a picture when a kid was changing, couldn't the school district be charged with possession of child porn? If the pictures were taken at random, there is a good chance that happened on at least one of the laptops...

Re:Child indecency? (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380844)

If it was John Q. Sicko of 222 Anystreet Anytown USA, right now he'd be rotting behind bars while the the DA was deciding whether to charge him with possession of 10,000 porn images of minors or 15,000. But because they are employees of the school board in question, the victims of this are instead accused of being immoral money grubbing bastards.

Someone needs to sue these guys for millions. It's about the only way the assholes that run this shoddy little branch of government will get the point that what happened was not alright. I'd prefer criminal proceedings and sex offender designations for whoever was storing those images, but it's clear the school board is not interested in doing the right thing here, and the DA isn't interested in actually taking on some sickos, so the only route to justice is to turn the school board upside down and shake the money out of its pockets.

Re:Child indecency? (2)

ebs16 (1069862) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381054)

"the victims of this are instead accused of being immoral money grubbing bastards." They should be taken to court on both counts. The people directly involved should be put through a criminal trial for child porn if it turns out that any questionable pictures were taken and the city should be sued for a massive amount of money for invasion of privacy. I've heard of cases where towns were sued for so much money that an additional fee was tacked on to local property taxes to pay off the settlement. This seems to be the only way to get voters to pay attention to what goes on in their government.

1984 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380676)

I love how Apple is turning into the bad guy from their own famous advertisement.

Blame it on IT (3, Insightful)

Luthair (847766) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380682)

Does it seem to anyone else that they're trying to shift blame onto the IT folks?

While I know nothing about the details of the report, or really the case beyond what has surfaced on Slashdot.... I find it hard to believe that the IT folks would be the ones directing which students to take pictures of, it seems that this direction would come from their superiors, the administration.

Re:Blame it on IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380748)

I find it hard to believe that the IT people weren't responsible for the software being installed, or being activated on request of the nebulous superiors.

'LOL JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS SIR!' doesn't cut it as a defense.

Re:Blame it on IT (4, Interesting)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380806)

As a recently promoted IT Manager from Sysadmin I can say that IT should have fought back. Spying is a dangerous game for anyone to play. Given the nature of trust granted to IT professionals privacy should always be a concern. Sometimes managers want to spy on their employees; to that I respond by asking them if they are happy with the work their employees are doing. If they are not happy then I suggest they talk to that employee about their performance, this usually happens with HR involved. I consulted with legal and it is now company policy. The only way we'll spy on you is if we think you're doing something illegal and luckily so far that hasn't come up.

It is our duty to safeguard all users of the network, not just the executives. The case would only be more true in a public setting like a school and especially when kids are involved.

Re:Blame it on IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380878)

School's having dedicated IT? I used to remember schools having a teacher or two that did that as well.

Motivation (5, Insightful)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380694)

He's motivated by money? Well, yeah, but he's also right and I imagine the school district will be cutting another cheque. His motivation for filing the suit doesn't matter - all that matters is whether or not he's right and, as has been made clear, odds are very good that he is.

Re:Motivation (1)

NotAGoodNickname (1925512) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380756)

The School District==The Taxpayer==Me. Great. Another check for me to write and I had nothing to do with it.

Re:Motivation (5, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380862)

Consider it motivation for you, the tax payer, to pay attention to, or to become part of your local school board. Since most school funding is provided through property taxes, you DO have local control.

-Rick

Re:Motivation (2)

Sprouticus (1503545) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380888)

Well then hold youe school district personnel more accountable. From what I understand, not one person was fired because of this.

Re:Motivation (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380902)

Yeah, it isn't really much to celebrate.

But maybe the voters will remember the danger of sanctioning the behavior of rampant assholes.

Re:Motivation (3, Insightful)

formfeed (703859) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381234)

The School District==The Taxpayer==Me. Great. Another check for me to write and I had nothing to do with it.

And if live in that city that check comes out of your property tax. Which would make you unhappy. Hopefully, the consequence would be to go after the people responsible for it. Hint: not the student.

Re:Motivation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36381210)

Spokesmen should probably remember that they're not lawyers or legislators, nor should they act like they're in a trial courtroom or the floor of Congress. If he had said something that is easily disprovable, he would be facing a stiff defamation suit.

Prison would make more sense (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380720)

This doesn't seem like the kind of thing that should be solved by monetary re-imbursment.

There should be a federal investigation, and everyone who decided to spy on school kids, as well as everyone who was aware this was going on but didn't report it to the police, should be charged and possibly sent to prison.

Re:Prison would make more sense (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380818)

That would cost even more money. A prisoner costs 50,000 per year on average. This type of thing usually includes more than 4 or 5 people. Plus the victim doesn't benefit and the perpetrator is not violent or a danger to society.

Re:Prison would make more sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380978)

That would cost even more money. A prisoner costs 50,000 per year on average. This type of thing usually includes more than 4 or 5 people. Plus the victim doesn't benefit and the perpetrator is not violent or a danger to society.

Government employees using tax money to make kiddie porn are not a danger to society?

If there's no penalty for the individuals involved (chances are, a lawsuit will be paid for by the school board's insurance), why would anyone believe they'll change their behavior?

Re:Prison would make more sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36381366)

The perp is not a danger to society? Are you sure? Most kiddy perv's I've heard up end up either behind bars or at least on a big list anyone can pull up on the 'net. And since when has cost of punishment been the deciding factor of whether we should prosecute? By that logic we would have no prisons at all. If schools were not government institutions, someone would be in jail.

FBI blew it off. (5, Interesting)

pavon (30274) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380826)

The FBI did investigate and chose to not press any charges [fbi.gov], since they didn't have "criminal intent", which is of course bullshit. They broke the law, and there are penalties for illegal wiretapping, both with and without criminal intent.

Re:Prison would make more sense (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380854)

This doesn't seem like the kind of thing that should be solved by monetary re-imbursment.

There should be a federal investigation, and everyone who decided to spy on school kids, as well as everyone who was aware this was going on but didn't report it to the police, should be charged and possibly sent to prison.

That would be the way it should go, but it doesn't seem there's even the least bit of interest in a criminal investigation. The plaintiffs are left but one recourse now, and that's a civil remedy.

Well, teaches kids a valuable lesson (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380736)

Whenever you get something for free, distrust it. Even if it's from someone you would trust otherwise.

Your privacy is yours to defend. Everyone else is trying to limit it. Companies, governments, hell, I even know parents who think it's a good idea to spy on their kids all the time. Hey, do you know where your kids are now?

My hope is, now that teenagers finally get to feel what level of blatant trespassing on privacy is happening, we might eventually get a generation that starts to oppose the development. It might take longer than "Generation Facebook", but I hope our powers that are do what they usually do: They overdo it to the point where people start to fight back.

Re:Well, teaches kids a valuable lesson (1)

D-OveRMinD (1517467) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380896)

"Whenever you get something for free, distrust it. Even if it's from someone you would trust otherwise." Linux?

Re:Well, teaches kids a valuable lesson (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381280)

You're free to build Linux using Gentoo or roll it yourself and look through the millions of lines of code. See you in 2013.

Re:Well, teaches kids a valuable lesson (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381110)

The problem with that lesson is that kids LIVE off of free handouts... from their parents. It's perfectly normal and a long established process of life. If you append that to "TANSTAFL, except when I do it", that's kind of the basis of hypocrisy. And if you go too far, you wind up with "trust no one, but you and yours" and that's full fledged bigotry. Raising kids is hard.

True, it takes a particularly smart kid to question the logical fallacy of someone advising them never to trust advice (or one that's seen Indiana Jones), but you'd have to hope that somewhere deep inside their noggin they're developing a worldview.

Re:Well, teaches kids a valuable lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36381348)

What, the school took pictures of Joe? OMG, that is like, soooo fun-nay, tee-hee-hee. Are they on Facebook? Ooh, shiny!

Shock Horror (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380782)

"lawsuit 'solely motivated by monetary interests "

A lawsuit done for monetary interests? Who ever heard of this?

When kids are not in school... (1)

TavisJohn (961472) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380814)

Then the school should not be involved. The school has no reason to monitor students when they are AT HOME. That is their PARENTS JOB!

The only time that remotely activated we bcams, screen shots and GPS should be used... Is if the machine is reported stolen, lost, or is not turned in when the school requests it. Then ONLY under the authority of the POLICE who should be the only ones involved in a machine recovery.

Yes. (1)

Weaselgrease (2050100) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380882)

Now all they need is for any of these webcam pictures taken to contain an undressed minor. It's already very possible, since they have no idea what will be on the other end when they enable it. They should be held just as accountable for 'child porn' if any such images do exist in their stored data.

Where's the respect for student? (3, Interesting)

milwcoder (1132835) | more than 2 years ago | (#36380934)

On Wednesday, Lower Merion spokesman Doug Young called Levin's lawsuit 'solely motivated by monetary interests and a complete waste of the taxpayer's dollars.'

I'm appalled by the sheer lack of concern of the privacy issue raised by this lawsuit, and the respect for students indicated by this official statement. I'd start a campaign to vote out the current admin if my children were given this kind of treatment.

Go get em! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36380972)

Sue em into the Stone Age!!!!!!

Not sure what is more disturbing... (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381104)

After reading the summary, I'm not exactly sure what I find more disturbing...

The notion of spying done by a school that was perceived as "incomprehensible" by the parents that turned out to be absolutely true, or looking at a figure of almost half a million dollars payed out in "court costs", well over double the amount paid to the actual victim. I'd love to hear a rational and sensible explanation for those extortionist rates.

And we wonder why our insurance rates are so high, and why we are forced to carry many different types of insurance...go figure.

What are we teaching our kids? (3, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#36381112)

We can talk all day long about "fair" and "unfair" and on and on and never arrive at a conclusion. But "childhood" is a transitory state. The purpose of teaching children is to teach them to be good, useful people when they become adults. I think this amount of truth is indisputable.

But by teaching them to accept being spied upon and to have no "expectation of privacy" or anything along these lines, what are we breeding? It is known that it is a human need to have privacy and a sense of self and in every case, the result is rebellion or some other undesirable result. We tend to think things like "it's our right to know" but is it our right to do that kind of psychological damage to these developing minds?

In addition to teaching them math, language, science and history, we should also be teaching them about the world they are growing into and how to cope with it and what to expect from it. Sure, students shouldn't be doing things with school equipment that it was not intended for, but when the cost of having it (was it optional?) removes privacy and even dignity of the students AND their unsuspecting families, it is clear someone's sense of authority has gone beyond its boundaries. And once again, what does this say to the young mind?

We keep seeing stories of how schools interfere with the private lives and dealings of students. There are and should be limits which at least mirror those we can expect to see in the work place. For example, "sexual harassment" can and does extend beyond the walls of the office building as does anything that creates a hostile work environment. Similarly, if a student harasses another student, it should be actionable by the school in some way. However, when it comes to things like "being critical of leadership" we need to treat school officials as if they were politicians in office and so when someone makes a mock-up web site for their principal and makes all sorts of "parody" types of claims, that sort of free speech needs to be protected in the same way. But these school leaders end up acting like tyrants and dictators or in ways that are inconsistent with our governmental and judicial ideals. That simply needs to stop.

In the end "think of the children" because they are the adults of tomorrow. And you know what? Think of YOURSELF because those young bastards will be taking care of us in one way or another and the quality of that care depends largely on how well we take care of them now!

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