Laptop Spying: Rental Company Sued Over Alleged Webcam Spying


Couple: It Feels Like We Were Invaded

Marc Zwillinger, a computer privacy and security lawyer, said that although businesses may be able to activate such technology to track stolen property, they could still find themselves in trouble if they're not careful to notify customers about the possibility.

"Was the notice clear? Did the people know what they were doing?" he asked. "Was there a document that told them and they didn't read it or was it not even disclosed to them?"

The Byrds, who were not immediately available to speak with, told the Associated Press that they didn't know that remote laptop spying was possible until the experience they allege.

"It feels like we were pretty much invaded, like somebody else was in our house," Byrd said. "It's a weird feeling, I can't really describe it. I had to sit down for a minute after he showed me that picture."

The University of Colorado's Ohm said that in cases involving privacy and the wiretap law, it's not a sufficient defense for an employee to say he or she was just following orders.

"It's not necessarily a defense to say my boss asked me to do this," he said.

Last year, a suburban school district in Pennsylvania paid more than $600,000 to settle two lawsuits over photos similarly taken with laptop surveillance technology. The FBI investigated the matter to see if any criminal wiretap laws were violated, but no charges were ultimately brought against the school district.

"What's so remarkable is the case in Pennsylvania was so widely reported and I thought there was going to be a shift in the security world," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

He said the Byrds' case is different but the allegations still raise privacy concerns.

"If someone is looking at you remotely and you have no idea that it's happening, that's a real concern," he said. "I think part of the problem is in the computer security industry there's a view that says it's OK to use electronic techniques to capture pictures. That just can't be right. That has to stop."

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