Family Sues Over Webcam Scandal in Philly Schools

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Like so many things on the Internet, the so-called Webcamgate scandal that plagued a suburban Philadelphia school district for months just won’t die.

     As Courthouse News Service first reported in February 2010, a class action accused the Lower Merion School District of conducting illegal surveillance of high school students by remotely activating webcams on school-issued laptops.
     Hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and an FBI probe later, the district still cannot put the saga to rest, with yet another wiretapping suit filed Monday in District Court.
     Plaintiff Joshua Levin’s suit describes an ominous night when he and his family discovered the surveillance.
     “Plaintiff’s younger brother noticed that the light in the [laptop’s] camera would go off an on at odd times, wondering if the family was being ‘spied on,'” according to the complaint. “Plaintiff’s mother dismissed this idea as absurd, as the notion that the school district was secretly monitoring and taking pictures of students was simply incomprehensible and beyond all rational belief. Plaintiff’s father was told and believed that the light meant the laptop was ‘charging.'”
     Levin says his parents subsequently received a letter from the district around June 2010, advising them that “4,404 webcam photographs and 3,978 screenshots” were remotely captured by the district from the laptop he was issued.
     The letter then instructed Levin that if he wanted to view the fruits of the district’s surveillance, he’d have a one-hour window on a specific day in June to do so at a federal courthouse, according to the suit.
     Levin says he accepted the offer, “and was shocked, humiliated and severely emotionally distressed at what he saw.”
     His attorney, Norman Perlberger of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., did not immediately respond to a call requesting clarification, although the suit claims that many images captured by the laptops may have depicted minors and their parents “in compromising or embarrassing positions,” including in “various stages of dress or undress.”

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