A just-released report into the "Webcamgate" scandal has found that Lower Merion School District officials knew that Harriton High School sophomore Blake Robbins had taken his school-issued laptop home.
Yet, they decided in October 2009 to activate a controversial program that secretly captured hundreds of webcam photos and screenshots – included pictures of Robbins sleeping and partially undressed, a photo of his father, and images of instant messages and photos of friends with whom Robbins was video-chatting.
The TheftTrack feature was supposed to have been used only when a student's school-issued Apple MacBook was reported lost or stolen.
"Now currently online at home," one school-district technician e-mailed another after the program was activated on Robbins' computer.
The report, released tonight, was compiled by the Ballard Spahr law firm and a computer-forensics firm at the request of the school district. Investigators recovered 57,992 webcam images and screenshots – many of them captured by students' laptops even after they had been found.
The district discontinued the controversial practice after Robbins and his family filed an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit in February, claiming that officials used the "Peeping Tom" technology to spy on students inside their homes.
The report found no evidence that officials used the feature to intentionally "spy" on students, but said the district's "overzealous" information-systems staff repeatedly activated the program "without any apparent regard for privacy considerations or sufficient consultation with administrators."