The court in the case of the Lower Merion School District in Pennyslvania that was spying on its students – in their homes – via webcams and software installed in the students’ school-provided laptops – has been ordered to let the students see the photos that the school surreptitiously took of them. As it turns out, the photo of Blake Robbins was just the tip of the iceberg; according to reports, there are nearly 58,000 photos taken by the school district, all by remotely accessing the webcam in the students’ laptops while spying on their students in the students homes and in other places off the school premises.
The order requires that “To the extent that the Lower Merion (the “District”) or its agents (including its attorneys and computer forensic consultants) are in possession of webcam photographs and/or screenshots captured from certain laptop computers issued by the District to its high school students (“Student Laptops”) resulting from the District’s use of the TheftTrack feature of the LANrev computer management software, students who possessed those laptops while TheftTrack was activated (“Affected Students”), and/or the Affected Students’ parents or guardians (the “Affected Parents/Guardians”) shall be provided an opportunity to view such images pursuant to the terms of this Order.”
The order includes a sample letter which is to be sent to potentially “affected students”, that says:
Dear [Affected Student):
This letter is being sent to notify you that a recently completed investigation into the remote monitoring of laptop computers by the Lower Merion School District has revealed that the School District has captured webcam photographs and screenshots from a laptop that the School District issued to you. Specifically, [number] webcam photographs and [number] screenshots that were recovered in the investigation were taken from your laptop from [date] to [date].
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You and your parent(s) or guardian(s) may view the recovered images, if you so desire. Under the supervision of United States Chief Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Rueter, we worked with the lawyers for the Robbinses, a group of concerned parents of Lower Merion and Hatriton High School students, and the American Civil Liberties Union to develop this process to enable students and their parents to view the recovered images in a private, confidential setting. Only the District’s lawyers (from the firm Ballard Spahr LLP) and computer forensic consultants (from the firm L-3 Services, Inc.), and investigators from the federal government have had access to the recovered images. They have not shown them to anyone else.
If you would like to view the recovered images, you may do so at [location to be determined| on [date] from [time] to [time]. A representative of L-3 will be in the room to assist with viewing the images. Judge Rueter will be in a separate room. No one from your school or the District will be there.
We are sending a notice similar to this one to your parent(s)/guardian(s). The District would like to give them an opportunity to view the images as well. But, you will be able to look at the images without your parent(s)/guardian(s) first, and if there are any images that you do not want them to see, you may let Judge Rueter know, and he will discuss with you how to handle that situation. Also, if the images contain private information from people other than you, steps will be taken to protect their interests.
Please fill out the enclosed form and mail it to us in the enclosed envelope within three days of receiving this letter. Please note that it requires the signatures of your parent(s)/guardians(s). If you would like to view the images but absolutely cannot make it at the time noted above, please state why on the form and we will contact you with a different time.
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You may decide that you do not want to view the images. lf that is the case, please indicate your choice on the enclosed form. If your parent(s)/guardian(s) want to view the images and you do not want them to, however, you must go with them at the designated time and Judge Rueter will discuss with you how to handle that situation.
Thank you for your cooperation.
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