School District Avoids Criminal Charges in MacBook Spying Case

Federal authorities have decided against filing criminal charges in an investigation into allegations that a Pennsylvania school district used the built-in cameras on Mac laptops to spy on students at home. Federal prosecutors along with the FBI said they weren’t able to prove that Lower Merion School District employees acted criminally, according to the Associated Press.

“We have not found evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone involved had criminal intent,” commented U.S. Attorney Zane D. Memeger.

The school district was understandably pleased with the investigation outcome. “We are very pleased with today’s decision by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which supports the findings of our internal investigation,” said Superintendent Christopher W. McGinley.

The investigation was opened after students claimed they were being spyed on at home via the iSight cameras that are built into their school-issued MacBook computers. The school district had installed software on the laptops that could allow employees to remotely activate the cameras, although the intent was to use the feature only if the computers were reported lost or stolen.

The school district is still facing a civil lawsuit filed bvy parents of the students. The suit alleges school district employees remotely activated the cameras on several of the issued laptops and captured images of students at home asleep or partially dressed.

In one instance, a student was confronted by an assistant principal over “improper behavior” at home based on an image captured from his laptop.

The civil suit was filed in U.S. District Court and claims the district’s practice of remotely activating laptop iSight cameras violates student’s civil rights and is also a violation of state and federal wiretapping laws.