FBI Launches Criminal Investigation into Webcam Spying

Investigators looking into whether federal laws were broken in WebcamGate

The FBI has opened a criminal investigation into the case of Lower Merion school officials spying its on students at home via notebook webcams, an FBI source said.

The source says the investigation will probe whether the school officials broke federal wiretap or computer-intrusion laws.

A class action lawsuit filed on Feb. 11 claims a teen was confronted with photographic evidence of him engaging in "improper behavior" at home by a school official.

Blake Robbins, a Harriton High School sophomore, says Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko spied on him using the webcam in his school-issued notebook computer, according to the suit.

The district claims they do have to right to access the webcams at any time, but say they only use the feature to locate lost computer.

Students and parents, who've dubbed the case WebcamGate, say they were never told about the webcam activation feature, a claim the district admits. The feature has since been disabled.

The webcams were activated 42 times in the past 14 months to find lost or stolen computers, officials said.

The district says it never used the cameras to spy on its students, but a new statement by a district spokesperson is raising questions.

Only two IT department employees were authorized to turn the cameras on, spokesperson Doug Young told the AP. So now, many are wondering how Matsko allegedly got access.

As many as 1,800 Lower Merion School District students from Lower Merion and Harriton High Schools were given the MacBook notebooks as part of a school program. The suit was filed on behalf of all of the students participating in the program in addition to Robbins.

Other students claim they've seen their webcam go live while off school grounds and worry they've been spied on too.

“Occasionally a green light would go on, on your computer which would kind of give you the feeling that somebody’s watching you,” Harriton High School student  Drew Scheier told NBC Philadelphia Thursday.

In addition to the FBI, the Montgomery County district attorney is also looking into whether evidence warrants an investigation. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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