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April 16 2010

Lower Merion School District Webcam Case Gets Even More Disturbing

The Lower Merion School District which came to some fame as of late, has made another in a long line blunders when it comes to its court case.

In case you don’t remember the story, Lower Merion School District was the school district that had a class action lawsuit against because it used a secuity tracking system that not only located the computer, but would take images via the built-in webcam that was installed into every computer.  The school district claims that it was only ever turned on 42 times by school order, but now it is coming to light that once it was turned on, that meant it could take pictures every 15 minutes for at least two weeks.

According to Philly.com, mixed into the latest batch of documents turned over to the plaintiffs, there were reportedly thousands of pictures of Blake Robbins, the boy whom this whole case revolves around.  Reportedly Mr. Robbins failed to pay the insurance fee on his school issued laptop, and his taking it off school property was reason enough for his cam to be activated.  The problem is that Mr. Robbins was confronted about being involved with drugs due to an image taken of him in his home while eating Mike & Ike candies.

Once the camera issue came to light, and the class action suit begun, things have been crazy with this story.  Now, after a couple of weeks of quiet we find out that the school watched this supposedly “stolen” laptop for two wees.  Amongst the pictures were images of Blake Robbins in various stages of undress, asleep and so on.  Also visible in some of the pictures are his family who have no clue that they are being filmed.

According to court documents, the Robbins’ camera was activated on Oct. 20, 2009 and ran until at least Nov. 11, 2009 when he was confronted, making for a total 22 days this camera was turned on and taking pictures, and also taking screen captures of whatever happened to be on his computer screen at that time.  Are you trying to tell me that in three weeks they couldn’t figure out this boy’s identity?  You had his picture, you had his IP address to help with locating his home, but it wasn’t until he was playing with “pills” that you did anything?

While lawyers for the school say the lawsuit is falling apart, the government is still looking at what possible laws the school violated.  Also, Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) has proposed new legislation which would fold video surveillance into wiretap laws.

Amongst all this it seems that Carol Cafiero, information systems coordinator for the school district who is currently on leave, plead the fifth in her questioning over what transpired.  What do you have to hide Ms. Cafiero?  Either you did your job, or something else was going on.  Perhaps you realize three weeks of surveillance might be deemed a tad bit excessive?



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