Former student files second lawsuit over school webcam spying

Pa. school district left the photo-taking feature on after teen retrieved lost laptop

Another student this week sued the suburban Philadelphia school district embroiled in allegations of spying on high schoolers using their school-issued laptops.

The lawsuit is the second aimed at the Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa., which was first accused of spying on students by Blake Robbins and his parents, Michael and Holly Robbins, of Penn Valley, Pa. TheRobbins sued the district in February, after Blake was accused by a Harriton High School official of "improper behavior in his home" and shown a photograph taken by his laptop.

A report conducted by an investigator hired by the district later concluded that the cameras had snapped more than 30,000 photographs when school personnel triggered software designed to locate lost, missing or stolen laptops. The report blamed the district's IT staff for the fiasco, saying that a former head of the department had dismissed earlier concerns about privacy violations if the software was used.

On Tuesday, Jalil Hasan, who graduated from Lower Merion High School this year, added his lawsuit to the Robbins'.

According to the complaint filed in federal court, Hasan reported his MacBook laptop missing on Dec. 18 but retrieved it the following Monday, Dec. 21, after a teacher turned it in to district personnel.

In the interim, however, the district's IT staff had turned on Theft Track, a feature of the LANRev asset management software Lower Merion deployed, and began snapping photographs using the laptop's webcam and capturing screenshots of the Mac's desktop.

Theft Track was not turned off when his laptop was returned to him, Hasan charged, and continued to take photos and screenshots for nearly two months.

"The TheftTrak [sic] software remained activated on Jalil's laptop computer beginning on December 21, 2009, until the publication of the Robbins' lawsuit on February 18, 2010, and was only turned off because of the Robbins lawsuit," Hasan's complaint read.

"In fact, had the Robbins' class action lawsuit not been filed, arguably Jalil's laptop would have continued whirring away snapping photographs and grabbing screenshots each time it was powered up," the suit continued.

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