New Complaint Filed: School Spying Worse Than Suspected

April 21st, 2010 - 9:00 pm ICT by Angela Kaye Mason  

spy Apr 21 (THAINDIAN NEWS) It seems that the situation in which the Harriton High School in the Lower Merion School District in the the Philadelphia area was spying on it’s students in their own homes may be worse than previously thought. New documents have been filed by sophomore Blake Robbins and his family in a lawsuit, which claims that the school district’s record show evidence that the so called ‘tracking system’ which the school had installed into their computers had taken more then 400 pictures of fifteen year old Blake during a two week period of time, and added that “thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots have been taken of numerous other students in their homes.”

The school issued laptops were sent home with every student, and had an added “security feature” which enabled the school administrators to turn on the computer’s web cam and spy on the students anytime, anywhere they had their computer with them. They claimed that this feature was in place as a protection to help track lost or stolen laptops, however it was revealed that these administrators were using the computers to spy on the kids, in their own homes.

Blake’s parents, Michael and Holly Robbins contended in court on Thursday that e-mails turned over to them by the district suggest Carol Cafiero, the school administrator which was running the program “may be a voyeur” who might have viewed some of the photos on her home computer. Robbins’s lawyer, Mark Haltzman, said, “Not only was Blake Robbins being spied upon, but every one of the people he was IM (instant message) chatting with were spied upon”. Anyone who walked in front of the webcams line of site is also in this category. The program which was installed, “LanRev Peeping Tom” in the laptops had a built-in webcam which was capable of taking photographs of its users and surroundings, when activated, after every 15 minutes.

In the emails which the Robbins family presented, 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. In their motion, the Robbins state that Cafiero who has been placed on paid leave, had failed to turn her home computer over to the prosecutor as she was ordered previously by the courts to do. It is believed that she may have hundreds of pictures of kids on her home computer, and they asked for the judge to sanction her for not complying to the court order.

According to the latest filing by the Robbinses, school administrators first activated program on a school-issued Apple MacBook that Robbins took home on Oct. 20. Hundreds of times over the next two week period,a tiny camera atop the laptop took pictures, software inside copied the laptop screen image, and a locating device recorded the Internet address - something that could help district technicians pinpoint where the machine was. The system was designed to take a new picture every 15 minutes until it was turned off. The material disclosed by the district contains hundreds of photos of Robbins and his family members - “including pictures of Blake partially undressed and of Blake sleeping,” the motion states.

On Thursday, Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) introduced legislation to close what he said was a loophole in federal wiretap laws and prevent unauthorized monitoring. Specter recently held a hearing in Philadelphia on the issue. “Many of us expect to be subject to certain kinds of video surveillance when we leave our homes and go out each day - at the ATM, at traffic lights, or in stores, for example,” Specter, who is running for reelection, said on the floor of the Senate. “What we do not expect is to be under visual surveillance in our homes, in our bedrooms and, most especially, we do not expect it for our children in our homes.”

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