The report into the school distict Webcam surveillance case in Pennsylvania has been released, and it’s a doozy. (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 the 2,300 Webcam-enabled laptops it issued to students in order to remotely peep into the students’ homes, take photographs and violate their privacy. The school district has denied the allegations; federal and state officials are investigating.)
The report (pdf) — by lawyers and computer experts hired by the district to investigate — was released this week at a school board meeting. The Associated Press reports, “There’s no evidence a suburban school district used school-issued laptops to spy on students despite its questionable policies and its lack of regard for students’ privacy, according to a report issued Monday by attorneys hired by the district.”
But those questionable policies were attacked by the investigators. The Philadelphia Inquirer says the report noted, “Inconsistent policies. Shoddy recordkeeping. Misstep after misstep. ‘Overzealous’ use of technology, ‘without any apparent regard for privacy considerations.'” Almost 58,000 images were taken, the 10-week investigation found.
The improperly collected images, the report said, “resulted from the District’s failure to implement policies, procedures and recordkeeping requirements and the overzealous and questionable use of technology by (information services) personnel without any apparent regard for privacy considerations or sufficient consultation with administrators.” […]
“Our investigation leaves unresolved questions that raise serious questions about why so many images were captured without apparent regard for privacy considerations,” the report said.
The Associated Press notes: “The report also criticized leaders and several members of the IS department as ‘not forthcoming with the Board, administrators and students about what TheftTrack could do and how they used it,’ citing incidents demonstrating ‘an unwillingness … to let anyone outside of the IS Department know about TheftTrack’s capabilities.'”
Philadelphia law firm Ballard Spahr, which wrote the report, recommended that the school district ban remote activations of computer webcams and also forbid remote capturing of screen shots from computers issued to students.