School officials in Pennsylvania who admit remotely activating student webcams to locate missing laptops could have used far less intrusive methods such as GPS tracking devices, technology and privacy experts say.
According to an AP report, the Lower Merion School District is defending a potential class-action lawsuit after a student complained of being photographed inside his home and accused of selling drugs. The FBI is investigating the school district for possible wiretap and computer-use violations.
While pledging to cooperate with any criminal probe, lawyers for the district also appeared in court in the civil case, the report said, negotiating an agreement aimed at preserving computer evidence. The district agreed not to destroy any evidence that might be found on its servers or on the nearly 2,300 laptops issued to students at its two high schools.
The district activated the webcams after 42 laptops disappeared in the past 14 months. Eighteen were located. Either way, the report notes that GPS, "call home" and other location tracking software offer better results without raising privacy concerns.