Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ignorance of the Law is Apparently Just Fine

Federal authorities in Philadelphia have decided not to press charges against school administrators who issued laptops to students with built-in webcams, then used the webcams to monitor students in their own homes.

The story came out in February when it was revealed that 2300 school-issued MacBooks had webcams that could be accessed by school officials wherever the computers went.  They argued at the time it was to prevent theft, but they let the cat out of the bag when they busted a student for "improper behavior" they saw the student doing in his bedroom.  They thought he was popping pills; his parents claimed he was eating candy.  Regardless, they sued the school district for the invasion of privacy, and lawyers who filed the suit claimed the district had thousands of pictures of students in their room, in bed, even partially dressed.

Here's where it's confusing.  The US attorney for the district said he found "no criminal intent" in the surveillance, so there was no point in furthering prosecution.  This strikes me as bizarre.  Does this mean that people can do all sorts of criminal behavior as long as they can prove they didn't mean to do anything wrong?

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