More on Laptop Spying Case

I mentioned some time ago about a situation occurring where a school was caught spying on students via webcams built into laptops that were issued to students. Well apparently there is nothing to see here:

An “independent” investigation into the Lower Merion School District laptop scandal has concluded that there’s no evidence that students were being spied on. This is despite the existence of 58,000 photos surreptitiously taken of students on or around their computers and e-mails between district IT people commenting on the entertainment value of the photos. The 72-page report (PDF) from law firm Ballard Spahr claims, however, that most of the photos were not seen by anyone and that the district merely failed to implement proper record-keeping procedures.

Yeah obviously there was no spying. Sure they had 58,000 pictures of kids doing who-knows-what but most of the pictures weren’t actually seen by anybody, scouts promise. After all I’m sure the Ballard Spahr law firm has evidence proving none of the pictures were viewed:

Ballard Spahr admits that there is no way to determine how often the images were viewed, but says it found no evidence that the IT staff had viewed any of the images. Additionally, it says there was no evidence that district administrators knew how TheftTrack worked or even understood that large numbers of images were being collected in the first place.

Oops I guess not. Oh wait there was evidence… of the pictures being viewed:

This, of course, is the problem: because there was very little record-keeping going on and no official policies, there are few ways to know who knew what and when. However, claiming that there’s no evidence whatsoever that IT staff saw the images seems disingenuous, considering the fact that e-mail records were dug up last month that showed at least two IT administrators chatting about the photos. One staffer that has since been put on leave, Carol Cafiero, described the pictures as “a little [Lower Merion School District] soap opera,” while another staffer responded, “I know. I love it!”

Yes the school gave all the students laptops, installed spyware (in the most literal sense) on the machines, but didn’t really document it nor put any polices in place of when the cameras were to be used. That’s doesn’t scream trying to cover your tracks because you knew what you were doing was going to land you in very hot water.

But the fact of the matter is the school went to great lengths to ensure an outside party chose an independent entity to carry out the investigation so no possibility of bias could have entered into the equation:

One detail of note is that Ballard Spahr was hired by the Lower Merion School District itself to carry out the investigation, casting doubts on the true “independent” nature of the report.

Fuck me. I’m still hoping that school district gets sued right into oblivion.

I know quite a few parents who don’t want their kids having a laptop with a webcam because pedophiles may be able to access the camera without anybody’s knowledge and watching everything going on. I usually write such concerns off as over-the-top paranoia but I guess when the school is providing the laptops you should be worried about such things (the cameras being activated remotely without anybody’s knowledge, well and possibly the pedophiles doing it depending on the truth reason for installing that spyware).

My ultimate question here is who requested the installation of the spyware? Did the IT people do it without asking the school administrators or did the school administrators ask the IT people to do it? This will ultimately show the guilty party.