Friday, August 29, 2014
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Students seem largely unfazed by spying case

Students leave Harriton High. Some said that they think the webcam issue is being overblown but also understood concerns about privacy. (Caroline Morris / Staff)
Students leave Harriton High. Some said that they think the webcam issue is being overblown but also understood concerns about privacy. (Caroline Morris / Staff)

While parents and the media fret over a federal lawsuit accusing Lower Merion school officials of spying on their charges, the students yesterday seemed unbothered as they left the district's Harriton High School.

"A lot of people think this is being blown out of proportion," said senior David Freedman, 18.

"I believe the school when they say they only used it to find lost or stolen laptops.

"People realize this is not a real threat."

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    In the original filing, Harriton sophomore Blake Robbins and his parents claim that the district improperly used a security program on the student's school-provided laptop to spy on the boy in his Penn Valley home.

    The district, which had distributed about 2,300 Apple MacBook laptops, said it had activated the security program only to track lost or missing computers.

    When the story broke last week, it was the talk of the school, said senior Martha McCloud, 18.

    She said she and her friends sent each other links to news articles and chatted after school hours about the controversy.

    Now the hype has died down and no one seems worried about being unknowingly watched.

    Still, McCloud has put a piece of tape over her computer's camera lens.

    "The thing that worries me is so many girls have laptops in their rooms when they change," she said.

    "It's just creepy, knowing there's that possibility."

    Another senior, who didn't want to give his name, said students are "divided between people siding with the district and those with Blake's family.

    "There's probably more people siding with Blake, probably because it's a weird invasion of privacy, but there's some people who think his family is overreacting," he said.

    Senior Bonnie McFarland, 17, said students knew that when the green light on their computers came on, "if you're not activating the camera, someone is."

    McFarland said she could see both the complainant's and the district's side of the story.

    "It an invasion of privacy, but I'm sure we signed stuff in waivers [when we got the computers]," she said.

    What's more bothersome is the media attention the case has drawn, she said.

    "It's so annoying having a helicopter over our school today, and there's a CBS truck across the street," McFarland said. "It's just a lot of drama."

    Staff writer Regina Medina contributed to this report.

    NATALIE POMPILIO pompiln@phillynews.com 215-854-2595
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