Chances are if you have Internet access (which you almost certainly do if you are reading this article), you spend a decent amount of time watching videos on your computer. How would you feel, though, if you found out your computer was also watching you? Cheesy plot to a horror film? Yes actually… but for one 52 year old widow this storyline was a reality.
Our story begins when Susan Clements-Jeffrey, a long-term substitute teacher, bought a non-functioning laptop for $60 from one of her students.. Although at first wiped of all software, the computer was restored to working condition by a fellow teacher at the school. Ms. Clements-Jeffrey claims she believed she had received an amazing deal and did not consider for even one second that she’d purchased stolen goods.
The substitute teacher used the laptop for a number of standard purposes, and some not-so standard, including intimate webcam conversations with her boyfriend, which she conducted in the nude. Her audience was larger than she anticipated.
Because the computer had the popular security software Lojack for Laptops installed, after it was reported missing by its owners, the Clark County School District, LoJack employees were monitoring its web activity. Screenshots of the video were taken and turned over to Springfield Police who identified her. She was arrested for possession of stolen property, though the charges were soon after dismissed.
But in 2009 Ms. Clement-Jeffrey sued the computer software company and the Springfield Police Department in Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio alleging violations of her Fourth Amendment right to privacy, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the Stored Communications Act (SCA), and the Fourth Amendment.
The Associated Press reported that Ms. Clements-Jeffrey recently accepted a settlement of an undisclosed sum with the software developers so we’ll never know how a trial would have played out. But though we can’t hear you from your computer (we don’t work for LoJack) we’ll just assume you’re curious about a legal analysis of the case. Here goes. (more…)