When you look at your computer screen, what if there were eyes looking back at you?
Lower Merion School District, in suburban Philadelphia, was brought into the spotlight after student Blake Robbins sued the district under accusations of taking pictures of him through the web cam of his school laptop.
Now, USATODAY reports that the district has secretly taken over 56,000 pictures of students over a two-year period through the web cams.
The classrooms of Penn Manor have been buzzing wondering whether our school has been watching us as well.
Lower Merion claims they turned on the tracking service in order to claim lost or stolen laptops. The FBI has begun a criminal investigation regarding wiretapping.
“There were no written policies or procedures governing the circumstances surrounding activating the program and the circumstances regarding turning off the activations,” said Henry Hockeimer, the lawyer who represents the school district.
Officials have said that students did not sign waivers, such as our Penn Manor internet safety contact, agreeing to the hidden use of web cams.
…So does that mean Penn Manor can do the same thing? And are they?
“No, we cannot do that. We don’t have the capabilities to do that. Lower Merion uses a purchased program called ‘Lanrev’ that can remotely switch the cameras on, but no we can’t do that,” said Penn Manor’s head of technology Charlie Reisinger.
But how have the students and staff reacted to the incident at Lower Merion?
“Honestly, I thought they already could when the little green light comes on because of the rumors I heard, but it would really creep me out. I wouldn’t do anything, just stay on my guard,” said freshman Kelly Shertzer.
Some teachers and staff have gone as far as to place a piece of tape over their web cams – as a precaution.
“I don’t like people looking at me when they shouldn’t be,” said art teacher Kim McMullen, “I don’t like the invasion of privacy.”
Both experts and Reisinger explain that there are different ways Lower Merion – and Penn Manor – could find computers.
“There are less intrusive ways to track stolen laptops, no question about it,” said Marc Rotenburger a Georgetown University law professor who serves as President of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, according to USATODAY.com
“We have a system similar to a GPS, if someone would walk out with one of our computers it would basically ‘phone home’” said Reisinger.
It’s safe to say that no one’s watching you at Penn Manor, for at least now.
By Mike Nitroy and Lindsey Ostrum