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Report reams IT admins for secretly snapping student pics

More than 58,000 images captured

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A suburban Philadelphia school district secretly captured more than 58,000 images of students and their friends and family members as a result of an "overzealous" campaign to track the whereabouts of school-issued laptops, according to an independent report.

Although the tracking technology was supposed to be used only in cases where a laptop was stolen or missing, 50,000 of those images were taken after the computers had been recovered, according to the report, prepared by a former federal prosecutor and a computer forensics firm.

Investigators blamed the privacy breach on two IT employees for the Lower Merion School District, who installed administrative software called LANrev on the school-issued MacBooks. The investigators also faulted administrators for not enforcing official policies or procedures for use of the program, which could be programed to surreptitiously snap pictures at regular intervals from the camera mounted on the monitor.

The 69-page report found no proof that anyone deliberately set out to spy on students, or that once captured, the images were downloaded. But it nonetheless blasted IT workers and administrators alike.

"Rather, the collection of images from laptops while they were in the possession of students resulted from the District's failure to implement policies, procedures, and recordkeeping requirements and the overzealous and questionable use of technology by IS (information services) personnel without any apparent regard for privacy considerations or sufficient consultation with administrators," it stated.

More than 400 images were secretly snapped of Blake Robbins, a high school student who has filed suit for invasion of privacy. Some were taken while he was sleeping or partially undressed, although the report said none of the images included nudity.

A PDF of the report is here and there's more from The Philadelphia Inquirer here. ®

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