A suburban Philadelphia school district secretly captured at least 56,000 webcam photographs and screen shots from laptop computers issued to high school students, its lawyer acknowledged last week.
“It’s clear there were students who were likely captured in their homes,” said Henry Hockeimer, who represents the Lower Merion district.
None of the images, captured by a tracking program to find missing computers, appeared to be salacious or inappropriate, he said. The district said it remotely activated the tracking software to find 80 missing laptops in the past two years.
The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported on April 19 on the large number of images recovered from school servers by forensic computer experts, who were hired after student Blake Robbins filed suit over the tracking practice.
The FBI has opened a criminal investigation into possible wiretap violations by the district, and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., has introduced a bill to include webcam surveillance under the federal wiretap statute.
The school district expects to release a written report on an internal investigation in the next few weeks, Mr. Hockeimer said.
A version of this article appeared in the April 28, 2010 edition of Education Week as Pa. District Acknowledges Capturing Webcam Images