LMSD response to webcam privacy allegation

The Lower Merion School District of Pennsylvania was recently accused of privacy invasion per this post. Now the school has released an official response to the allegations. According to the school, the security feature was installed in the laptops as an anti-theft device and was not intended to invade privacy. The software that was installed would take a photo of the person using the laptop after it was stolen to give to the authorities. Now this may be what it was intended for, but it seems that someone did’nt get the memo.

Read the press release below (Source:

LMSD initial response to invasion of privacy allegation

Updated 2/18/10 5:26 PM

Dear LMSD Community,

Last year, our district became one of the first school systems in the United States to provide laptop computers to all high school students. This initiative has been well received and has provided educational benefits to our students.

The District is dedicated to protecting and promoting student privacy. The laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. This feature has been deactivated effective today.

The following questions and answers help explain the background behind the initial decision to install the tracking-security feature, its limited use, and next steps.

• Why are webcams installed on student laptops?

The Apple computers that the District provides to students come equipped with webcams and students are free to utilize this feature for educational purposes.

• Why was the remote tracking-security feature installed?

Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off school property. The security feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student.

• How did the security feature work?

Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the District’s security and technology departments. The tracking-security feature was limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator’s screen. This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever.

• Do you anticipate reactivating the tracking-security feature?

Not without express written notification to all students and families.

We regret if this situation has caused any concern or inconvenience among our students and families. We are reviewing the matter and will provide an additional update as soon as information becomes available.


Dr. Christopher McGinley

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