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Mike and Ike Candy Spills the Beans on School Webcam Spying

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Trevose, PAAn Pennsylvania school pushed invasion of privacy to whole new level when it used a remote control device to take pictures of students in their own homes with school-issued laptop webcams. The remote activation feature was supposed to be used as a tracking device in case of theft. "They had the capability to activate the cameras but they started using it for purposes well beyond the original intent," says attorney Mark Haltzman.

Haltzman represents Blake Robbins and his family in a class action lawsuit alleging that the Lower Merion School District in Montgomery County is guilty of invasion privacy, violating the Fourth Amendment, unlawful search and seizure and list of other civil rights violations. Haltzman is now plowing through new legal ground. "This type of case is not anything I have dealt with before and I don't think anyone has," says Haltzman. "This is an area that is brand new."

"Everywhere we go someone is taking our picture. This is just an example of someone taking it another step further, watching us inside our home. That's the last place you think anyone would be looking at you"
Over a period of about 14 days, the school captured dozens of images of Blake Robbins as he slept, while he was partly dressed, while he talked to friends. The school even had a picture of his father. It also copied, and stored pictures of websites that Robbins had visited.

Vice principal reprimand rings bell on webcam

On one occasion, Robbins was video chatting with a friend and held up a yellow "Mike and Ike" candy. When an assistant principal saw the photograph, she thought he was using drugs and asked to talk to him. When the Robbins family found out the school was spying on their son in their own home, they called foul.

"Had it not gotten out the bag when it did," says Haltzman, "who knows how many more times this would have been improperly used, how many more opportunities there would have been for other people's privacy to be invaded. This could have gone on and on."

Pushing the limits

"Everywhere we go someone is taking our picture," says Haltzman. "This is just an example of someone taking it another step further, watching us inside our home. That's the last place you think anyone would be looking at you, and you particularly didn't think that your school would is watching you."

Mark Haltzman is Of Counsel is an attorney with Lamm Rubenstone. He is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania (BS) and Temple University (JD). His practice areas include civil rights, law labor law, mergers and acquisitions corporate law and litigation.

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