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FBI reviewing school webcam case

Associated Press / February 20, 2010

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PHILADELPHIA - The FBI is investigating a Pennsylvania school district accused of secretly activating webcams inside students’ homes, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case told the Associated Press yesterday.

The FBI will explore whether Lower Merion School District officials broke federal wiretap or computer-intrusion laws, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Days after a student filed suit over the practice, Lower Merion officials acknowledged yesterday that they remotely activated webcams 42 times in the past 14 months, but only to find missing student laptops. They insist they never did so to spy on students, as the student’s family claimed in the federal lawsuit.

Families were not informed of the possibility the webcams might be activated in their homes without their permission in the paperwork students sign when they get the computers, district spokesman Doug Young said.

The district has suspended the practice amid the lawsuit and the accompanying uproar. District officials hired outside counsel to review the webcam activations and advise the district on related issues, Young said.