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    Update on Pennsylvania School Webcam Lawsuit

    Wired has an update, “Feds Say Judge Hampering Webcam Spy Probe,” on the school Webcam surveillance case in Pennsylvania. (To recap: In February, the Robbins family filed a lawsuit — Robbins v. Lower Merion School District (pdf) — alleging that the Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania misused Webcam-enabled laptops it issued to students in order to remotely peep into the students’ homes, take photographs and violate their privacy. The school has denied the allegations; federal and state officials are investigating. Latest update here.)

    Wired reports that federal prosecutors are saying U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois, who is presiding over the civil case, is hindering the criminal investigation:

    The evidence prosecutors are seeking is connected to a federal civil lawsuit in which the plaintiff’s lawyers claim that the Lower Merion School District secretly snapped thousands of webcam images of students using school-issued laptops without the pupils’ knowledge or consent.

    U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois, who is presiding over the civil case, two weeks ago ordered that evidence should only be disseminated to those connected to the civil lawsuit. (.pdf) U.S. Attorney Michael Levy wrote the judge, saying Friday that her freeze order “interfered with the government’s obligation to investigate possible criminal conduct occurring within this district.”

    Levy asks the court to “modify its order to permit the government access.” (.pdf) Among other things, Levy wants to examine what plaintiffs lawyers contend are thousands of screenshots school-supplied MacBooks took of an unknown number of children, some of which might include nude or partially clothed shots. […]

    When the story broke in February, the district said the cameras were activated a handful of times when a laptop was reported stolen or missing — an assertion lawyers suing the district say is false. The district has deactivated the webcam-tracking program secretly lodged on 2,300 student laptops.

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