Feds not charging Philadelphia school employees in laptop spying case

Federal prosecutors have decided not to charge employees of the suburban Philadelphia school district who took thousands of webcam photos from laptops issued to students. "We have not found evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone involved had criminal intent," U.S. Attorney Zane D. Memeger said in a statement. Memeger made the announcement to close the matter before the start of the school year.

Earlier this year a high school student filed a lawsuit against the school district for privacy violations. The school district used a software that took pictures from the webcam to help recover lost or stolen laptops. This lawsuit, which is still ongoing, triggered an investigation by the FBI for possible wiretap violations.

District officials said that the technology department only activated the remote tracking system to recover the laptops that were reported lost or stolen, but sometimes the software would stay activated for week or months, even after the laptop was recovered. In all, the software captured 56,000 webcam images and screen shots from student laptops. According to the AP, none of the images taken appeared to be "salacious or inappropriate."

The districts Superintendent Christopher McGinley said, "We are very pleased with today's decision by the U.S. Attorney's Office, which supports the findings of our internal investigation. This is all good news for the students and staff of Lower Merion School District as we prepare for the start of a new school year." To help ease tension between the district and the public, the school board implemented a new policy that requires written consent from both students and their parents before the use of the tracking software is permitted.

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