Judge Orders School To Alert Students, Parents To Webcam Photos Taken

from the 58,000-photos dept

As the details of more extensive webcam spying by the Lower Merion school district has broken it became clear how much the district tried to hide its activities. Originally, the school suggested it had only taken webcam images 42 times, but the details noted 58,000 photos were taken — a bit of a difference. Now a magistrate judge has ordered the school district to alert students and parents who were in those photos of their existence, and allow the students to see the images — though not to get copies of them. The students will actually have the right to view the images without their parents and to exclude “sensitive” photos from being seen by their parents.

Of course, one thing that hasn’t been answered yet is how widely this sort of software is used in other schools. When the Lower Merion story broke, we pointed to a PBS Fronline episode where an IT guy proudly showed off similar technology, joking about his ability to secretly spy on kids. This clearly isn’t something that was just used in a single school. You have to wonder if other schools are deleting evidence now… or realizing they should be telling their students about what kind of photos they’ve been storing of students.

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Comments on “Judge Orders School To Alert Students, Parents To Webcam Photos Taken”

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Nate says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, no; I think we got it. See, you made it sound like you were non-chalant and didn’t care, but then you indicated that you felt the OPPOSITE. It was subtle.

And I think we all agree with your intention: these kids shouldn’t have been spied on. It also seems pretty strong that the capability was used outside the scope of its ostensible use.

MikeC (profile) says:

Not only are they purging pic's ...

What about the backups (assuming the schools actually run them). Are there any rules about retaining them? They can purge pic’s but I figure there could be some interesting subpoena action wanting to look at backup tapes if anything comes out anywhere. You know this is not the only school system doing this. The temptation is just to great, no way to control it. In particular if you consider the mindset of the average school administrator.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

what really bothers me about the entire mess is the part that says

The students will actually have the right to view the images without their parents and to exclude “sensitive” photos from being seen by their parents.

im not generally one to kneejerk react to anything at all, but that kinda leaped off the page at me.
exactly what kind of “sensitive” images would they have and exactly how is it legal for them to NOT allow the parents to see those images?

DH's love child says:

Re: Re:

Let’s go out on a limb here and say the pictures showed them changing clothes, or sleeping nude, or, um, relieving stress.

Point is, teenagers do things in the privacy of their room expecting it to be, well, private.

As far as the legality goes, I imagine as the kids are victims, there is no requirement for the parents to be in the room for them to identify pictures of themselves.

DH's love child says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Please, let’s not downplay this. The entire world could be energy independent if we could figure out a way to harness the masturbatory energy of teenagers. For a school to have a window to this is silly….”

And I am extremely happy that my parents (well, you) also don’t have a window into this. 🙂

zeiche (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That leaped off the page for me as well, for how reasonable the judge was towards the children.

There may be images that could cause discord between the child and the parents, putting the child in further jeopardy (reading an old XY magazine for example). The child is probably traumatized by the invasion of privacy as it is. There is no clear reason to make the child suffer further by having to explain her actions to parents as well.

byteme says:

Speaking of trauma...

How mortified do you think the kids are going to feel after they are led into a room and allowed to see a collection of photos taken of them in various states of undress and possibly in compromising positions…and then being told, “Oh, by the way, you can’t have these and they won’t be deleted. Instead, these photos will now be scrutinized by an undisclosed number of individuals and will be kept (likely forever) by the authorities. But, that’s okay, it’s just for official use and to prosecute the guilty parties. Oh, yeah, they’ll likely be proudly displayed to a courtroom full of people, too! Bye, now. Have a nice life.”

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