Family Set To Drop Webcam Spying Class Action Against School District (LN Litigation Resource Community)

PHILADELPHIA – (Mealey’s) A high school student’s family that accused a suburban Philadelphia school district of unlawfully spying on students through the webcams of district-issued laptop computers said in a court filing May 11 that it would likely drop its class action claims against the district (Blake J. Robbins, et al. v. Lower Merion School District, et al., No. 10-cv-0665, E.D. Pa.).

The family of Blake J. Robbins said it would likely drop its pursuit of a class action as a result of “productive discussions” with the Lower Merion School District. The family said an injunction would permanently bar the district from using technology to track students’ computers, would require the district to establish a process by which parents and students whose images were captured by the Webcams may view the images and would require the district to set up new policies and safeguards for using such technology. The plaintiffs said they hoped a resolution of all necessary equitable relief could be achieved before a June 7 deadline in which the plaintiffs must file a motion seeking class certification. The Robbins family said it intends to pursue individual claims for compensatory and punitive damages against the district.



When Decency Fails in the World Online (American Lawyer)

The frenzy of the mediacracy knows no bounds. Reporters snoop on even the president’s private quarters with binoculars; portable imaging devices make candid snapshots of any act immediately available for publication; the press swarms over the lives of the rich and famous, making their personal peccadilloes the daily public affairs agenda of the nation; pundits despair that information technology is the “chief enemy of privacy in modern life.”

Life in the era of the blogosphere and the cell phone camera? Not quite. The president is Grover Cleveland, newly married and beset by photographers on his honeymoon. The trial of the century is the adultery prosecution of the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher. The new media are the tabloid newspaper and the Kodak camera. The pundit is E.L. Godkin, who, writing in The Nation, despairs that “gossip about private individuals is now printed, and makes its victim, with all his imperfections on his head, known to … thousands, miles away from his place of abode.” And the year is 1890.

Daniel J. Solove’s “The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet” recounts how the privacy and defamation laws in force today were born out of this cauldron of competing rights (the free flow of newly disseminable information vs. the defense of “private” life) and legal ferment (new media vs. old laws).

(more. . .)

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Private Facebook Pages Are Not So Private (Wired)

Private Facebook profiles aren’t quite as hidden as many users might think they are. Pages that are supposedly restricted are visible to anyone using searches based on religion, sexual orientation or relationship status.

Security researcher Christopher Soghoian announced the flaw on Tuesday. A quick search by Wired News for women in a major U.S. city who were interested in random hookups with men revealed the names and photos of two high school girls, including one ninth grader.

Like many social networks, the increasingly popular Facebook allows its users to mark their profile page as private, semiprivate or open. However, even if you mark your profile to be visible only by friends, that doesn’t change how you turn up in Facebook searches or whether your profile is open to indexing by search engines. (more. . .)

A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs (NYT)


Is it too late to bring civility to the Web?

The conversational free-for-all on the Internet known as the blogosphere can be a prickly and unpleasant place. Now, a few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.

Last week, Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.

Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

Google Tightens Privacy Measures


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google Inc. is adopting new privacy measures to make it more difficult to connect online search requests with the people making them – a thorny issue that provoked a showdown with the U.S. government last year.

Under revisions announced late Wednesday, Google promised to wrap a cloak of anonymity around the vast amounts of information that the Mountain View-based company regularly collects about its millions of users around the world.

Google believes it can provide more assurances of privacy by removing key pieces of identifying information from its system every 18 to 24 months. The timetable is designed to comply with a hodgepodge of laws around the world that dictate how long search engines are supposed to retain user information. (more…)

Harsh Words Die Hard on the Web (WaPo)

Law Students Feel Lasting Effects of Anonymous Attacks

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer

She graduated Phi Beta Kappa, has published in top legal journals and completed internships at leading institutions in her field. So when the Yale law student interviewed with 16 firms for a job this summer, she was concerned that she had only four call-backs. She was stunned when she had zero offers.

Though it is difficult to prove a direct link, the woman thinks she is a victim of a new form of reputation-maligning: online postings with offensive content and personal attacks that can be stored forever and are easily accessible through a Google search. ( more…)

[via Althouse]

FBI turns to broad new wiretap method (CNet)

The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed.

Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords.

Such a technique is broader and potentially more intrusive than the FBI’s Carnivore surveillance system, later renamed DCS1000. It raises concerns similar to those stirred by widespread Internet monitoring that the National Security Agency is said to have done, according to documents that have surfaced in one federal lawsuit, and may stretch the bounds of what’s legally permissible.

Call it the vacuum-cleaner approach. It’s employed when police have obtained a court order and an Internet service provider can’t “isolate the particular person or IP address” because of technical constraints, says Paul Ohm, a former trial attorney at the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. (An Internet Protocol address is a series of digits that can identify an individual computer.)