Pennsylvania High School Uses School-Issued Laptop Webcams to Spy on Students at Home and Off-Campus

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The Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania is being sued by Holly and Michael Robbins, along with their son Blake Robbins, over the discovery that the school district was spying on their son via the webcam in the school-issued laptop which their son received from the school district. The Robbins and others discovered that school administrators were remotely accessing the webcams in the students’ laptops when a student was disciplined by the school for “improper behaviour in this home”, with the school’s assistant principal producing as evidence a photo taken with the webcam, of a scene in the student’s home!

According to the class action lawsuit, “Unbeknownst to Plaintiffs and members of the Class, and without their authorization, Defendants have been spying on the activities of Plaintiffs and Class members by Defendants’ indiscriminate use of and ability to remotely activate the webcams incorporated into each laptop issued to students by the School District.”

Furthermore, according to the lawsuit, “An examination of all of the written documentation accompanying the laptop, as well as any documentation … {provided by the school} … reveals that no reference is made to the fact that the school district has the ability to remotely activate the embedded webcam” whenever it wants to.

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Pennsylvania High School Uses School-Issued Laptop Webcams to Spy on Students at Home and Off-Campus

The lawsuit documents go on to explain that the Robbins first became aware of this issue when the assistant principal at Blake Robbins school, Lindy Matsko, told Blake “that the School District was of the belief that {Blake} was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in {Blake’s} personal laptop issued by the School District.”

“Micheal Robbins thereafter verified, through Ms. Matsko, that the School District in fact has the ability to remotely activate the webcam contained in a students’ 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.”


You can read the full lawsuit here, although the above (manually transcribed by us as the file is a protected PDF) is the meat of it. (Download the PDF file of the Robbins versus Lower Merion School District lawsuit for spying on students through school-issued webcams.)

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Pennsylvania High School Uses School-Issued Laptop Webcams to Spy on Students at Home and Off-Campus

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6 Replies to “Pennsylvania High School Uses School-Issued Laptop Webcams to Spy on Students at Home and Off-Campus”

  1. and what might this “improper conduct” be? a teen age boy yanking his doodle in what he thought was the privacy of his own room? if the school busybodies are worried about that i’d suggest they’ve got entirely too much time on their own hands.

  2. from latest news reports the f.b.i. has gotten interested in this case, it looks like the school authorities are getting into deep kimchi.

  3. I would be intrigued to see whether child-porn laws apply to the practice of filming students in their own homes in various states of undress.

    I’m fairly sure that if I were to pull this kind of stunt as a private citizen I would be sent down for a well-deserved stretch at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. I assume that the teachers in question are public employees, and therefore that further laws governing the (im)proper use of government equipment would come into play.

    I would also like to hear what the “improper behavior” was of which the student in question was accused.

  4. A hundred million dollars against the school administration, none of which may come from the taxpayers, would be the appropriate verdict.

  5. This is so incredible that I can’t believe it. I will be interested to see if anything happens if the school is convicted. Punishment should be very severe if they are found guilty.

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