The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Crime and Drugs Subcommittee on Monday suggested he might push for revisions to federal wiretapping laws to prevent secret video surveillance.
Arlen Specter, D-Pa., made the remarks at a field hearing in Philadelphia that was prompted by allegations from a Pennsylvania family that school administrators monitored their son by using a secret webcam embedded in a school-issued laptop.
The family filed suit against the Lower Merion School District in February, contending that the school’s secret monitoring came to light when the student was reprimanded for actions caught on camera in his own home. The case has become a national controversy and a rallying point for online privacy advocates.
Privacy advocates and technology experts at the hearing testified in response to Specter’s query on whether the wiretap statute, known as Title III, should be updated to include secret video surveillance. The existing act regulates electronic eavesdropping via a hidden microphone, secret monitoring of e-mail correspondence, or wiretapping of telephone calls. But the rule does not prevent video surveillance or covert web photos, which advocates say needs to be addressed.
“Any camera controlled by software on a computer or mobile device that is connected to the Internet carries the risk that the camera will be remotely activated without the knowledge or consent of the user,” testified Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Yet American citizens and consumers lack the most basic protections against this kind of spying.”