A law enforcement official with knowledge of the case says the FBI has opened a criminal investigation into a Pennsylvania school district accused of activating webcams inside students' homes without their knowledge.
The cameras came with the Apple computers that the school district had distributed to all of its 1,800 students.
'I just think it’s really despicable that they have the ability to just watch me all the time.' —Student Tom Halperin, 15
The official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, says the FBI will explore whether Lower Merion School District officials broke any federal wiretap or computer intrusion laws.
Lower Merion officials say they remotely activated webcams 42 times to find missing student laptops in the past 14 months, but never did so in order to spy on students, as a recent lawsuit claims. Superintendent Dr. Christopher McGinley has now promised that the feature won't be used again without written notification to students and their parents.
The Montgomery County district attorney also is gathering information to determine whether to open an investigation.
The school is located in a well-to-do suburb of Philadelphia.
Grade 10 student Tom Halperin told The Associated Press that his fellow students were "pretty disgusted" over the affair, and pointed out his class had recently read 1984, the George Orwell classic that coined the term "Big Brother."
"This is just bogus," the 15-year-old said as he left school with his laptop, which now has tape placed over the webcam and microphone features. "I just think it’s really despicable that they have the ability to just watch me all the time."