School Confirms Ability to Control Student Webcam

Yesterday it came to light that a student is suing LowerMerionSchool District in Philadelphia allegedly remotely activating his webcam. The remote activation of his webcam was exposed when student Blake J. Robbins was disciplined for "improper behavior in his home" by the Vice Principal, who provided a photo taken by the webcam as evidence.

In response to the allegations, the superintendent of the school district, Dr. Christopher McGinley, wrote in an announcement:

"Last year, our district became one of the first school systems in the United States to provide laptop computers to all high school students," he wrote, then confirming the ability for administrators to turn on cameras. "The laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. This feature has been deactivated effective today."

He added, "We regret if this situation has caused any concern or inconvenience among our students and families. We are reviewing the matter and will provide an additional update as soon as information becomes available."

McGinley then provided a short FAQ on the webcams on student laptops.

 • Why are webcams installed on student laptops?

Thanks to one of our own readers, crazazyasian1337, who claims to be a student at the laptop-equipped school, provided the following pieces of information in our news comment section:

ok, so I go to this school, and there are a few things to be cleared up. firstly, every student was given a MacBook by the school to take home and use for the whole year. These MacBooks however have the capability of being remotely accessed by the school at any time, a feature originally intended to be used in case the computer was lost. The problem is, someone has apparently been caught doing something illegal while at home through this camera, and thus the lawsuit began. The principal made a statement today during school saying the school district would never use the camera to spy on kids and that the whole situation was being blown out of proportion.

Marcus Yam is a technology evangelist for Intel Corporation, the latest in a long line of tech-focused roles spanning a more than 20-year career in the industry. As Executive Editor, News on Tom's Guide and Tom's Hardware, Marcus was responsible for shaping the sites' news output, and he also spent a period as Editor of Outdoors & Sports at Digital Trends.

  • warezme
    Yea, what? Instead of disciplining the kid for doing whatever it was that was bad enough to brought to the attention of the principal, the so called "parents" are going to sue the school??

    This is after they basically steal school equipment (laptop borrowed not returned or paid for), but what else would you expect from these parents. What BS.
  • justsomeone
    Thanks for the follow up. This is pretty interesting. One thing though. The principal stated the laptops were provided by the school. How could this laptop not be paid for if the school was providing them?
  • zoemayne
    so if its not paid for instead of going on the persons credit they consider it stolen........ stupid is it really that serious this is a school not a gov or company.
  • False_Dmitry_II
    They're providing MACBOOKS!? of all things? Seems really expensive for a school. Why aren't they netbooks or at least regular laptops? How did they manage to convince anyone to go this far in the budget?
  • Warezme,
    How stupid are you? A provided devise that has not been paid for has does not come under stolen it comes under other classifications whereas the computer can be taken back via legal means not by spying. At the point the computer were not paid for the student could be told he would be failing school or something else. However I caught what others have read in that they were "Provided" not "sold" necessarily. This is a clear case of trying to justify why your spying and trying to catch a young child in a compromising position for your personal gratification. I think the FBI should investigate to see if the computers have been used to violate the children in a pornographic manor. This is not just a rant I am serious this is a SERIOUS matter! If the principle and others are not fired and possibly jailed something is wrong!
  • Ramar
    One of the first high schools in the US? Bullshit. I graduated in 07 and got mine freshman year. 7 years late to being "One of the first" to offer laptops. And ours weren't creepy as hell.
  • christop
    Why are they using macbooks... Budget Busted for real...
  • cracklint
    Why would a public school district use state tax dollars to buy overpiced apple laptops?

    why would they let students take them home?

    In what scenario would it be remotely okay to enable the webcam? Teenage girls? hello! this is an IT pervs dream come true!

    I would be suing the school board, firing the principal, and calling for the arrest of the vice pricipal.

  • Impulse Fire911
    i think some people are just perverted. what would u gain from watching these kids. fucken weirdos
  • Wow, apparently someone wanted to get arrested. This might be the most stupid thing I've ever heard. The kid should have put his balls on the camera, then called the police because whoever was watching the video was breaking the law by possessing child porn.