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.