"WebcamGate" Reverberates Nationwide

Kentucky schools remove laptop trackers after Lower Merion controversy

By Teresa Masterson
|  Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010  |  Updated 9:59 AM EDT
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WebcamGate Family's Attorney: "Who Has Access"

NBCPhiladelphia.com

Blake Robbins holds up the school-issued MacBook computer, the same computer he alleges school officials activated his webcam to spy.

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Tuesday night, local officials refused to comment on the controversy over Lower Merion School District’s alleged at-home spying on students through city issues laptop webcams. But the scandal is already reverberating across the country.

Days after Washington weighed in -- both the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office promise an investigation -- a western Kentucky school district began removing tracking software from laptop computers assigned to high school students.

McCracken County Schools Technology Director Heath Cartwright said the Kentucky school district’s Monday decision was a direct result of hearing about Blake J. Robbins vs. Lower Merion School District -- the lawsuit accusing Pennsylvania school officials of spying on, and taking pictures of, students by remotely activating their laptop webcams.

McCracken County school technicians began uninstalling computer software that allows administrators access to webcams, as well as the ability to monitor usage on 2,170 laptops. Like Lower Merion, the Kentucky school district’s high school students were given the laptops, reports the Paducah Sun.

City officials in Lower Merion promised a statement on the controversy on Wednesday.

In the lawsuit filed Feb. 11, Robbins alleges that school administrators remotely activated the webcam on the school-issued laptop and took photos of him in his home holding pill-shaped objects. Robbins, a 15-year old sophomore, said that an assistant principal later used the photos to show that the teen was engaged in “improper behavior.”

Like Lower Merion School District officials, Cartwright said the reason for the technology is to track computers that are stolen or lost.
 

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