by Steve Watson & Paul Joseph Watson
February 22, 2010
Students Spied On With
School Issued Laptops
The scandal surrounding kids being spied on at
home via webcams in laptops provided by schools extends further than just
schoolchildren - four years ago Google admitted that it was implementing
similar invasive surveillance technologies that would target all Americans.
A school district in Philadelphia faces a class action lawsuit after it
allegedly issued laptop computers to 1,800 students across two high schools
and then used concealed cameras within the machines to spy on students and
their parents without their knowledge or consent.
Lower Merion School District in the suburbs of Philadelphia faces charges of
invasion of privacy, theft of private information, and unlawful interception
for providing computers with webcams that were remotely and covertly turned
on by administrators.
The suit was brought on behalf of all the students and their parents after
it was revealed that the computers had been used to monitor students both at
school and at home.
The story harks back to revelations of how private industry and eventually
government are implementing plans to use microphones in the computers of
hundreds of millions of Internet active Americans to spy on their lifestyle
choices and build psychological profiles which will be used for surveillance
and minority report style invasive advertising and data mining.
Google announced that they would use
in-built microphones to listen in on user’s background noise, be it
television, music or radio - and then direct advertising at them based on
“The idea is to use the existing PC
microphone to listen to whatever is heard in the background, be it
music, your phone going off or the TV turned down. The PC then
identifies it, using fingerprinting, and then shows you relevant
content, whether that’s adverts or search results, or a chat room on the
reported the Register.
Hundreds of millions of Internet-active
Americans will all be potential targets for secret surveillance and
the subsequent sell-off of all their information to unscrupulous data mining
corporations and government agencies.
The report cites the inevitability that the use and abuse of this technology
will eventually be taken over by the state.
“Pretty soon the security industry is going
to find a way to hijack the Google feed and use it for full on
espionage,” states the article.
Google’s recent announcement that it
will work with America’s most well-known spy agency,
NSA, which was embroiled in the warrantless
surveillance scandal during the
Bush administration, only
heightens concerns that big brother will have a virtual wiretap in every
home that has a computer.
The laptop spying case,
Blake J. Robbins v. Lower Merion School District,
was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania on Tuesday, February 16, 2010.
According to the filing, the actions of the school district were exposed
when one of the school’s vice principals disciplined Mr Robbins’ son for
“improper behavior in his home,” and used a photo taken from the computer
camera as evidence.
“Michael Robbins thereafter verified,
through Ms. Matsko, (an assistant principal) that the school district in
fact has the ability to remotely activate the webcam contained in a
student’s personal laptop computer issued by the school district at any
time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of
the webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of
any persons then and there using the laptop computer” the complaint
“Additionally, by virtue of the fact that the webcam can be remotely
activated at any time by the school district, the webcam will capture
anything happening in the room in which the laptop computer is located,
regardless of whether the student is sitting at the computer and using
it” it continues.
Nowhere in any,
“written documentation accompanying the
laptop,” or in any “documentation appearing on any Web site or handed
out to students or parents concerning the use of the laptop,” was any
reference made “to the fact that the school district has the ability to
remotely activate the embedded webcam at any time the school district
wished to intercept images from that webcam of anyone or anything
appearing in front of the camera,” the complaint also states.
The computers were provided via an initiative
funded by state and federal grants to the students at Harriton High School
in Rosemont, PA and Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, PA.
According to comments by the district’s Superintendent, Christopher
“enhances opportunities for ongoing
collaboration, and ensures that all students have 24/7 access to school
based resources and the ability to seamlessly work on projects and
research at school and at home.”
What McGinley failed to add was that it
also provided the school with 24/7 access to the students and their
The plaintiffs also note in their complaint that,
“the laptops at issue were routinely used by
students and family members while at home,” and that “many of the images
captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors and their
parents or friends in compromising or embarrassing positions, including,
but not limited to, in various stage of dress or undress.”
The plaintiffs are seeking damages in respect of
not only a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States
Constitution, but also a host of other federal and state privacy laws,
the Electronic Communication Privacy Act
the Computer Fraud Abuse Act
the Stored Communications Act
the Civil Rights Act
the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and
Electronic Surveillance Act
Pennsylvania common law
The laptop spying case is just another example
of how surveillance technologies have been used for methods that amount to
child abuse for years.
reported on numerous cases of school
officials installing cameras in school bathrooms which allow perverts to spy
on children in various stages of undress.