Pennsylvania school denies spying on students with laptop webcams

The Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania has attempted to downplay reports that it deliberately used laptop webcams to spy on students in their homes.

District Superintendent Dr. Christopher W. McGinley was forced to issue an official explanation just days after the parents of one Blake J. Robbins filed a lawsuit against the district claiming officials remotely accessed the school-issued laptops and snapped webcam photos of their son.

“Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off school property. [As such], District laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops,” McGinley explained in an e-mail to concerned parents obtained by Gizmodo.

“The security feature, which was disabled today, was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student. Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the District’s security and technology departments.”

McGinley also claimed that the security feature’s capabilities were limited to taking a “still image” of the operator along with the screen. 

“This feature was only used for the narrow purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District never activated the security feature for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever,” claimed a red-faced McGinley.