by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 10th 2010 6:15pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 18th 2010 3:33am
from the criminal-intent dept
As stories came out about administrators enjoying spying on students -- referring to it as a window into their own "little... soap opera," the FBI got involved. However, the prosecutors are now saying that they won't bring charges, because there is no evidence of criminal intent. That shouldn't impact the various civil lawsuits, of course.
At the same time, Julian Sanchez points us to the news that after all of this, the school district has finally put in place new policies designed "to govern the use and tracking of student laptops and other technology." Seems like, perhaps, that should have been in place a wee bit earlier.
by Karl Bode
Mon, May 3rd 2010 6:17am
from the maybe-you-should-have-thought-things-through dept
Things aren't looking too hot for the Pennsylvania school district that thought it would be a good idea to use student laptop webcams to spy on students at home. E-mails acquired by the lawyer heading up a civil suit against the administrator and the school district seem to highlight how the administrator had a wonderful time spying on students, while also indicating that tens of thousands of photos were taken (contrary to district claims that barely any photos were taken). As many of our commenters had wondered, it appears the lawyer may be trying to bolster his case by potentially bringing the administrator up on child porn charges -- assuming the photos involved nudity and were offloaded to her home PC. The administrator behind the plan denies those charges, and only just last weekend decided to stop pleading the Fifth and hand over the PC in question to a computer forensics expert hired by the district.
While the legality of spying on students with webcams remains in dispute, the potential child porn angle of the case has caught the eye of a federal grand jury and the FBI, who are investigating the district. But, in an added wrinkle, federal prosecutors are now claiming that a U.S. District Judge is hampering their investigation into the case. The Feds are complaining about a recent Judge order banning anyone from disseminating evidence involving the case to anyone not directly involved in the lawsuit. Prosecutors, of course, want to get their hands on the photographs taken by the webcams (which are now estimated to total 56,000 -- with only one made public), and are asking the Judge to modify his order (which was asked for by the plaintiffs) accordingly.
Interestingly, in an effort to try and control media coverage of the case, a group of area parents are asking the same U.S. District Judge to issue an order banning anyone involved in the case from giving interviews "near district schools or students' homes":
"...wearied by the international attention caused by the suit, a group of Lower Merion parents asked the judge Friday to ban lawyers and other parties in the case from giving interviews near district schools or students' homes. "We and many other parents of Lower Merion School District are outraged by the substantial distraction that the recent media frenzy has visited upon our district and our community," the parents wrote to U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois. "The incessant news cycles about this litigation are plainly taking their toll on the education of our children," the parents' letter said. "It has become a harmful distraction to the very persons that plaintiffs and their counsel seek to represent."Trying to lock down media coverage and evidence doesn't appear to be helping. Meanwhile, the school district is lucky to be wealthy enough to not only give a significant chunk of their 6,000+ students Apple laptops, but also to be able to afford their legal bill -- which is estimated as having already broken the half a million dollar mark. That's barely half of 1 percent of the current $193 million budget of the Lower Merion School District. So, the scandal has resulted not only in a lawsuit and a huge (and growing) legal bill, but also in a national firestorm. It has given several politicians a re-election platform, prompted the creation of potential new national privacy legislation, and resulted in an FBI investigation. How's that stolen laptop and surveillance project working out again?
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Oct 7th 2009 4:16am
from the an-exploit? dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 7th 2009 9:31am
from the that-doesn't-seem-right... dept
It's already troubling enough that a private industry group, involved solely in activities designed to protect a business model, was allowed to work so closely with police in a criminal investigation. FACT alerted the police to potential illegality at Scopelight, which is fine, but from then on FACT was intimately involved in the criminal investigation. When the owners of Scopelight, Anton Benjamin Vickerman and his wife Kelly-Anne Vickerman, had their home raided by the police... FACT came along for the investigation. Not only that, but they had their own private investigator copy information from the Vickerman's computers (exactly what and how much was copied is apparently in dispute). When the Vickerman's were questioned by the police, FACT members took part in the questioning.
It seems troubling enough that private industry reps were allowed to be so closely involved in a criminal investigation where they have clear bias, but it gets worse. The police seized various computers and equipment as part of arresting the Vickerman's, and then allowed FACT employees to inspect the computers and the information found on them -- which, again seems to be granting way too much access to a private group. Then things got even more bizarre: the police gave a bunch of the equipment to FACT to allow FACT to continue to examine the equipment.
A few months after the original raid, investigation and arrest, the police decided that there wasn't enough for criminal charges, and decided not to prosecute the Vickerman's. The police told the Vickerman's their property could be returned, so the Vicerkman's lawyers contacted FACT asking for the equipment back, at which point FACT refused, claiming it was holding onto the equipment because it was considering bringing a civil suit against the Vickermans -- which it eventually did bring.
So beyond the rather stunning close working relationship between the police and a private industry group on a criminal investigation, including handing over evidence to a private party, once the police decided not to prosecute, that private party decided to keep the computer equipment and use it for a civil suit. Thankfully, the court has ruled that this latter decision was improper, and the moment the police decided not to prosecute, the equipment should have been returned. So while this is a victory for Scopelight, it's still a rather stunning revelation of how closely integrated a private industry organization is with criminal investigations, and certainly raises questions as to why such a group should get such access.
from the just-sad dept
That leads to even more ridiculous situations, like the story in Wired about an assistant principal, Ting-Yi Oei, at a high school in Virginia. After rumors were spreading about "sexting" happening at the school, he was asked by the principal to investigate. In the course of the investigation, a male student showed him a photo he had received of the torso of a woman wearing a bra and covering her breasts with her arms. The principal told Oei to preserve a copy of the image. Not being very computer literate, he asked the student with the photo how to get a copy himself. The student sent it to Oei's phone and told him how to email it to his own computer, which Oei did. After investigating the matter, Oei did not believe the student in the photo went to the school, and informed the principal about everything.
Later, due to a variety of other events, the original student who had the photo was suspended. In anger, his mother called the police, telling them about the photo, which resulted in the police investigating Oei... and charging him with "failure to report suspicion of child abuse." Of course, he had reported everything to the principal (what was legally required) and it wasn't clear that there was actually any child abuse. And, finally, the fact that he couldn't identify the student meant that he had no way of actually reporting who was abused.
But, rather than drop the charges, prosecutors kept on going. They added more charges, including possession of child porn (a felony, rather than the misdemeanor) and then later adding charges of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" for asking the original student to send him the photo (which, remember, the principal had told him to archive).
Oei's name was all over the news, accused of child pornography. He was stripped of his job since he couldn't be seen at the school around students. He had to raise money to fight the charges and is now in tremendous debt. Last week, a court finally tossed out the charges, noting that the photo itself isn't even pornographic (let alone all the other problems with the lawsuit).
Child porn is a very real and very serious issue that needs to be dealt with. But we seem to have put together a set of laws that allow for massive reputation-destroying witch hunts, rather than actually tackling the real issues. This story should horrify anyone who thinks that current child porn laws make sense.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 5th 2008 10:39pm
from the that's-not-good dept
And while it turned out that I was wrong about what happened, based on the evidence at the time, I still believe that it was wrong to jump to conclusions about what Warner Music did without actual evidence. Jumping to conclusions without evidence is what the industry does. We should be above that. When the actual evidence is there, then we should be clear and call it out -- and indeed, finding out that Warner hired the guy in the middle of the investigation is a huge problem and should throw the entire case into question. But, let's hold ourselves to a higher standard than the entertainment industry, rather than stoop to their level.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 18th 2008 10:48am
from the conflicts-of-interest dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Mar 13th 2008 4:49pm
from the what's-really-going-on-at-the-FCC dept