An employee in the Pennsylvania school system accused of violating students' privacy by activating the webcams on school provided laptops without their knowledge has invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself. ChannelWeb reports Carol Cafiero, an IT administrator at Hamilton High School in the Lower Merion school district, "pleaded the fifth" when asked to testify in the case sophomore Blake Robbins' parents filed against the school district.
I don't know many details (nor do I want to, really), but the evidence certainly does not look good for the school district. An internal investigation revealed laptop tracking software took almost 56,000 photos of students over two years. In most cases, the software was activated after laptops were reported stolen, in more than one instance, the tracking software was not turned off once they were found, the story says.
Moreover, anyone claiming school employees were unaware the tracking software had been activated won't have much of a leg to stand on if Cafiero's situation is any indication. An e-mail exchange between Cafiero and another IT administrator compared the stream of photos coming in from the laptops to "a student soap opera," which Cafiero said she loved.
According to The Associated Press, Cafiero is claiming Robbins had no expectation of privacy with the laptop because he took it home without permission, but Robbins' parents and/or their attorneys have yet to respond to that claim.
The sheer number of photos taken does trouble experts who are following the case, as does the content of some of those photos. TheWeek.com indicates some photos show students partially undressed.
David Sockol, president and CEO of Emagined Security, told ChannelWeb:
For tools of this nature, policies and procedures are instrumental to ensuring appropriate use. Unfortunately, it's way too easy for individuals with access to take advantage of tools like this. I typically recommend that organizations get legal review of their intended use of tools like this, to ensure that they are being appropriately used.
Granted, policies and procedures aren't going to keep every single person toeing the line all the time, but more stringent and better enforced policies -- for the students and school employees -- could have avoided much of the headache in this case.