The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union have joined the fray in Lower Merion, PA, where the local school district is being sued by a family whose son alleges that the school covertly photographed at home him using spyware they installed on all students' mandatory laptops. The ACLU has filed an amicus brief in support of the boy's family, and in this interview, EFF attorney Kevin Bankston discusses the law as it pertains to video wiretapping:
"There is no federal statute that criminalizes or creates civil liability for such secret videotaping unless it involves sound, because then it is an intercept of a verbal communication. So no one can plant a bug in your house without violating wiretapping law, but they can still plant a camera without violating federal wiretapping laws," he said. "That's something that congress should address particularly now that everyone potentially has a surreptitious video device staring them in the face when they're at their laptop."
Bankston also pointed out that one of the claims brought by the plaintiffs — that the school district violated wiretapping laws — is weak, because technically wiretapping involves intercepting communications that have already begun, not creating a connection to take video. However, that's not the only claim filed as the lawsuit and the court has many options at its disposal, including awarding damages.
"We filed the amicus brief to share our expertise in this area of constitutional law and to support the plaintiffs' efforts to make sure this surveillance stops immediately," Walczak said in a statement issued on the organization's Web site. Bankston concurred saying that EFF hopes that the lawsuit will serve as a warning to other institutions that are thinking of spying on the people they give laptop computers
ACLU and EFF Speak Out Against School Webcam Spying