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2010-04-18T21:53:27Z
We've been following the Lower Merion school district investigation ever since a student at the school, one Blake Robbins, was accused of engaging in improper behavior based on evidence captured by his school-provided laptop's webcam. Investigative reports now indicate that the school either lied through its teeth about the degree to which cameras were activated or was negligent—possibly criminally negligent—in exercising appropriate oversight of how the system was being used by the staff who had access.

The Story Thus Far

When Blake's parents began asking how the school had come by its evidence, the district admitted that it had installed third-party software that allowed it to activate the webcam of any particular laptop at any time. Lower Merion admitted to an error in judgment in not notifying parents of their remote webcam policies, but initially maintained that the school only activated webcams on laptops that had been reported lost or stolen, and that no systems had been activated inappropriately. From the beginning, this didn't make much sense—Robbins' laptop had never been reported missing, which meant the photographic evidence used by Lower Merion's Assistant Principal to punish him should never have existed in the first place.

One other fun note. The case itself focuses mostly on webcam activity, but the LANrev software package installed on the students' notebooks allowed for a great deal more than remote photo-taking. It's now apparent that other details, including chat logs, web histories, and personal conversations were also available for the taking.

If It Waddles Like A Duck...


This is a duck. Note the distinctive duck-like features and the webbed feet.

Late last week, the Robbins' attourney filed a brief claiming that the school district snapped thousands of photos that documented all aspects of their lives, including the chat rooms and websites they frequented, their IM conversations, and an undocumented amount of really bad cybering. (We made that last one up, but seriously, you know it had to happen). The specific details of several inappropriate monitoring events are detailed on pages three and four of this PDF.


One of the inappropriate photos submitted as evidence by the plaintiffs.

The brief specifically mentions school IT administrator Carol Cafiero as referring to the capability as a window into "a little LMSD soap opera," and telling workers that she "loved" the webcam's capability. Cafiero, it must be noted, hasn't exactly helped her own case. Over the past month, she's taken the 5th to avoid answering every question she's been asked, refused to comply with court orders, and attempted to quash the subpoena that requires her to turn over her personal PC and equipment for investigation.

It Must Be Something Else.


Despite the evidence of duckery, Lower Merion would prefer you believe—and blame—something else. Possibly something like this.


The Lower Merion school district is frantically reassuring parents that it intends to fully disclose all of the webcam photos that were taken while simultaneously maintaining that no photos were inappropriately taken. On April 16, one day after the plaintiff's filing, school board president David Ebby released a statement addressing the issue:

the plaintiffs' motion suggests that the LANrev tracking feature may have been used for the purposes of 'spying' on students. While
we deeply regret the mistakes and misguided actions that have led us to this situation, at this late stage of the investigation we are not aware
of any evidence that District employees used any LANrev Webcam photographs or screenshots for such inappropriate purposes.
Fortunately for Lower Merion, in a court case, you aren't "aware" of something until it's been accepted as evidence by a judge. Given the current state of the investigation, it seems likely that the blame is going to end up squarely on Carol Cafiero. If that happens, you can bet Lower Merion will be tugging on the noose, anxious to paint the entire affair as the result of one bad seed. Don't be fooled. The real question here is why the school district felt it had the right to engage in such behavior, and how Cafiero (if convicted) was able to get away with what she did without anyone else noticing. Even if the illicit actions in Lower Merion started and ended with a single person, the errors that allowed such abuses to occur are systemic.

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Inspector
2010-04-19T07:35:06Z

Wow they took a photo if him sleeping, and undressing (maybe some fully undressed...)

Nice duck alligator thing :P

3vi1
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2010-04-19T08:16:29Z

This just boggles the mind. If this all turns out to be true, I hope they throw the book at her as an example to others that think they can put telescreens in our homes.

animatortom
2010-04-19T08:17:38Z

I am afraid that this is only the tip of the iceberg!

Image all the other schools that have either gotten away with doing thing like this, or are still doing it, and just not getting caught. If you wish to understand how this perversion is allowed to happen, just look who we have as our safe schools Czar!

Apparently they also have photos and possibly video of his sister as well. I can not believe that people are allowed to behave like this and not sent to the chamber! Not only is it allowed to continue, but they let these people get off on a technicality and then you get incidents like you did in San Diego. Of course this is all great for the leftist lawyers because then they get to have high profile cases and do their best to get these people out. Because they are protecting peoples civil liberties. What about the children's safety and well being! If we threw child molesters down a five mile hole in the ground , and they knew that would be their fate then we would have less of this stuff.

This is in no way confined to only one school, I am sure that everyone of the schools out there that have a laptop program have inappropriate web cam issues just like this. IF not then all the pervs out there are scrambling to find out how to hack into their systems and get little glimpses themselves. I just hope that right now all the kids are going around and taking the wireless out of the laptops and painting over the webcam, Carol is probably really a front scapegoat for the people who were really figuring this out and doing it.

la_guy_10
2010-04-19T08:48:11Z

Just another case of "Big Brother" starring you down. It appears they definitely overstepped their boundaries here.This is how I see it playing out right now Lower Merion is in ignorant mode: "What, Who, we are not aware of any breach of information". It will then proceed to hot potato mode: everybody throw it off on the next person, to hot to handle type of situation, this will only buy time though. Finally they will single out someone to pin the blame on, this is what hot potato mode is for, figuring out who will take the fall.

This reminds me of the song "Private eye, there watching you, they see your every move" by Hall and Oates

InfinityzeN
2010-04-19T10:27:38Z

This is a massive child porn case involving dozens of children now. The IT department deleted a ton of pictures before the cops got ahold of the systems. You just know if they manage to recover pictures, some are going to be nude.

There appears to be thousands of pictures that the cops have recovered of dozens of children. Reading the linked PDF is really interesting.

Joel H
2010-04-19T10:55:54Z

Infinity,

Statistically, you may have a point. However, I think it's extremely premature to call this "a massive child porn case" before evidence has been discover that indicates it is, in fact, a child porn case.

It's absolutely possible. It may even be likely. But given the severity of the charge, I'm not going to level it without proof.

ChevySSbowtie
2010-04-19T12:53:35Z

Sounds like a perverts to me, they can see them undressing and snapped thousands of photos.

But yes, we'll have to wait for the actual evidence before concluding

Even if they were supposedly "tracking the computers" once they realized they were with the assigned students they should of immediately turned off the tracking camera and deleted the photos.

AKwyn
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2010-04-19T13:44:45Z

This is just another invasion of privacy.

Surprisingly privacy in this day of age is nonexistent, mostly anything you can look up on a person is on the internet. But this is an unforgivable invasion of privacy, I mean the guys should of just turned off the camera, not try to gather as much info as they can on this boy and watch their personal life for anything, what also worries me is that they used the webcam just to see somebody naked. I don't know why people do this but why would you want to use the webcam to do that?

Case in point, the guys should lose their jobs over this. This was supposed to track the student's notebooks in case they got stolen, not for spying on people. I don't know why there were spying but if they had reasons then it wouldn't be reasonable to anybody. They spied on a kid without permission and without his knowledge.

Marius Malek
2010-04-19T17:32:07Z

Of course it's an invasion of privacy, but it's also a major misuse of power and responsibility. I believe that they were just pretending to be ignorant of the fact that they could access the webcams through wireless means regardless of it's location. I bet that things like this happen all the time throughout district's but either people are just really good at covering their tracks or that nobody has had enough evidence to use against the schools. 

What I want to know, is what the school thought what purpose the webcams would serve if the laptop was stolen. Tracking devices would be much easier, and it wouldn't matter if it was at a students address since that's already on the database. The whole webcam thing a was idea from the get go. Were the students even notified that these webcams could be wirelessly activated and accessed? You would think that the school would enforce this idea to encourage theft not to happen. But no, they made a costly error...and error in judgement? Psshhh, that's like standard policy. 

Which then brings me to the fact that this kids laptop was never reported stolen. And we're just inches deep into the investigation already and it's already looking bad for this guy. But like you said, it doesn't even stop at the webcam access that makes this case really take off. I wonder what school would think that it was a good idea to have software that even monitors user history as well?  It's sad that they can't take up responsibility, it's time to fess up towards your actions and suffer the consequences.

Which THEN brings me to Carol Cafiero. Shame shame. She can't even answer one question that has been forwarded to her and she has yet to hand over her computer for investigation? Jesus...did she record and document the information taken from these students? Personally though, as irresponsible as this entire situation is, only Carol being blamed for this situation is really a bullet dodge for Lower Merion. I'm sure that once the case is over that everyone will want to forget about this. 

moethelawn
2010-04-19T18:43:54Z

In case anyone didn't see this, PBS has a documentary called Digital Nation and the clip below shows the same high school that's in trouble showing off the tracking software:

[View:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vza_bMuy42M]

It is sad to see these people spying on kids like this.  I know the high school I graduated from is looking at buying laptops for every student.  I hope they are wise as to what they use for tracking software (knowing the IT guy, I'm actually a little worried)

AKwyn
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2010-04-19T18:55:49Z

Marius Malek wrote:

Of course it's an invasion of privacy, but it's also a major misuse of power and responsibility. I believe that they were just pretending to be ignorant of the fact that they could access the webcams through wireless means regardless of it's location. I bet that things like this happen all the time throughout district's but either people are just really good at covering their tracks or that nobody has had enough evidence to use against the schools. 

What I want to know, is what the school thought what purpose the webcams would serve if the laptop was stolen. Tracking devices would be much easier, and it wouldn't matter if it was at a students address since that's already on the database. The whole webcam thing a was idea from the get go. Were the students even notified that these webcams could be wirelessly activated and accessed? You would think that the school would enforce this idea to encourage theft not to happen. But no, they made a costly error...and error in judgement? Psshhh, that's like standard policy.

Seems like people are always power hungry these days, they think they can do anything they want and get away it, they think they can control everything within the palm of their hands; and it's power-hungry people that make the world bad. Since the system allowed them to access their computer, they could gain everything from chat logs to pictures of the boy sleeping, apparently accessing the system unknowingly without the kid knowing. And these people were probably gathering around to read and look and watch and I think it's wrong for people to invade someone's privacy for fun or for feeling powerful.

Also. I don't know what they were thinking but I think they might want to catch a face of the thief who stole the laptop, since the webcam can capture images. I also think they might of had a side agenda of using the webcams as some security camera to catch whatever mischief the student with the laptop did. I agree with you that the tracking system is better, it's much more logical and it's less exploitable since it doesn't involve someone using your webcam.

Marius Malek wrote:

Which then brings me to the fact that this kids laptop was never reported stolen. And we're just inches deep into the investigation already and it's already looking bad for this guy. But like you said, it doesn't even stop at the webcam access that makes this case really take off. I wonder what school would think that it was a good idea to have software that even monitors user history as well?  It's sad that they can't take up responsibility, it's time to fess up towards your actions and suffer the consequences.

Which THEN brings me to Carol Cafiero. Shame shame. She can't even answer one question that has been forwarded to her and she has yet to hand over her computer for investigation? Jesus...did she record and document the information taken from these students? Personally though, as irresponsible as this entire situation is, only Carol being blamed for this situation is really a bullet dodge for Lower Merion. I'm sure that once the case is over that everyone will want to forget about this. 

It seems like this school just love to spy on it's students and drip out every juicy drop of information from them. If she refuses to give up the laptop then it's likely that she is also documenting information taken from the students, so is most of the school's staff. I don't know what kind of school would spy on it's students 24/7. I thought it was just two people but, I think it goes much farther, I think these people have an agenda based on the way their behaving.

Inspector
2010-04-19T19:05:55Z

chevy, "Sounds like a perverts to me, they can see them undressing and snapped thousands of photos."

Also called child pornography which is illegal...

Moethelawn, lets hope they do learn to do better.

animatortom
2010-04-19T19:10:12Z

Marius Malek wrote:

Of course it's an invasion of privacy, but it's also a major misuse of power and responsibility. I believe that they were just pretending to be ignorant of the fact that they could access the webcams through wireless means regardless of it's location. I bet that things like this happen all the time throughout district's but either people are just really good at covering their tracks or that nobody has had enough evidence to use against the schools. 

What I want to know, is what the school thought what purpose the webcams would serve if the laptop was stolen. Tracking devices would be much easier, and it wouldn't matter if it was at a students address since that's already on the database. The whole webcam thing a was idea from the get go. Were the students even notified that these webcams could be wirelessly activated and accessed? You would think that the school would enforce this idea to encourage theft not to happen. But no, they made a costly error...and error in judgement? Psshhh, that's like standard policy.

Seems like people are always power hungry these days, they think they can do anything they want and get away it, they think they can control everything within the palm of their hands; and it's power-hungry people that make the world bad. Since the system allowed them to access their computer, they could gain everything from chat logs to pictures of the boy sleeping, apparently accessing the system unknowingly without the kid knowing. And these people were probably gathering around to read and look and watch and I think it's wrong for people to invade someone's privacy for fun or for feeling powerful.

Also. I don't know what they were thinking but I think they might want to catch a face of the thief who stole the laptop, since the webcam can capture images. I also think they might of had a side agenda of using the webcams as some security camera to catch whatever mischief the student with the laptop did. I agree with you that the tracking system is better, it's much more logical and it's less exploitable since it doesn't involve someone using your webcam.

Marius Malek wrote:

Which then brings me to the fact that this kids laptop was never reported stolen. And we're just inches deep into the investigation already and it's already looking bad for this guy. But like you said, it doesn't even stop at the webcam access that makes this case really take off. I wonder what school would think that it was a good idea to have software that even monitors user history as well?  It's sad that they can't take up responsibility, it's time to fess up towards your actions and suffer the consequences.

Which THEN brings me to Carol Cafiero. Shame shame. She can't even answer one question that has been forwarded to her and she has yet to hand over her computer for investigation? Jesus...did she record and document the information taken from these students? Personally though, as irresponsible as this entire situation is, only Carol being blamed for this situation is really a bullet dodge for Lower Merion. I'm sure that once the case is over that everyone will want to forget about this. 

It seems like this school just love to spy on it's students and drip out every juicy drop of information from them. If she refuses to give up the laptop then it's likely that she is also documenting information taken from the students, so is most of the school's staff. I don't know what kind of school would spy on it's students 24/7. I thought it was just two people but, I think it goes much farther, I think these people have an agenda based on the way their behaving.

Quote

The people who have always been complaining about how they are being spied upon are always amazed when the people they vote to stop it, actually turn around and do it themselves! And at a much higher rate off efficiency, and then blame others when they get caught, just so they can say "well we didn't start it!

 

"Depends on what your definition of IS,...IS!"

 

Of course there are only a few of us on this site that remember those days :P

 

Read a book called "1984", I'm sure they will just look it up on Wikipedia :)
firstsensum
2010-04-21T17:53:58Z

Dear ANIMATORTOM :

Perhaps you should seek instruction from differrent providers to further your education.

"Lefty Lawyers" aren't fighting for the Child Porno School Adminstration's 'Right to Spy' on children/citzens . . .

. . .they are fighting for the PRIVACY Rights that are constantly being erroded, and were under 'NewCueLur' attack the past 8 years.

=====

Don't forget: BEDROOM CAM is a conservative christian idea... that way we can make sure you are behaving only a christian manner, as god demands, and punish you if you aren't. None of that gay pre-marital non-missionary style self-abuse. and you KNEEL beside your bed when you say your prayers EVERY night. We ARE logging it. Crime Prevention is the Key ! No more stolen laptop terrorists !!!