If you’ve been following the news lately, you may have come across a story where a Pennsylvania school system has been allegedly spying on their students. The Rosemont’s Harriton High School’s computers included software that would allow them to turn on the webcam whenever they wanted. This would effectively allow them to spy on students in the privacy of their own home. This came to light when the school allegedly informed student Blake Robbins’ parents that he had been selling drugs and even showed a still photograph as evidence. The Robbins’ family claims these accusations are false. You can read more details here or watch this video:
CNET noted that the school system could be sued for violating a number of laws/regulations such as, “the Fourth Amendment, the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, and Pennsylvania common law.” They didn’t even get into the potential child pornography charges that could potentially come from the girl who said that she shower with her laptop open to listen to music (if they are shown to have violated that).
I find the story interesting on many levels. Having a Computer Science degree and working in the technology industry for the past decade, I usually stay on top of technology happenings. It never occurred to me that a web cam could be used in a nefarious way like this. Take it a step further and imagine a virus that does the same thing. Yikes!
The biggest question for me from a financial perspective is, “What if the school is found guilty of all these violations?” The damages could be millions and spread across numerous families. On the outset it would seem that justice would be served and everyone could just move on. However, the community would be left with a bankrupt school system. That typically means raised taxes. So others in the town would have to pick up the pieces. This leads me to think, the ones who “win” could be the lawyers. It might even be in the community’s best interest to root for the school as outlandish as it sounds.