Legislation to deter monitoring without oversight advances

(TRENTON) – The “Anti-Big Brother Act” (S-2057) sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester) was signed into law today. Senator Norcross crafted the bill after events in the Lower Merion School District in Montgomery Township, PA where students – without their knowledge or consent – were recorded and monitored in their homes through school-issued laptops.

“Big Brother has no place in our schools,” Senator Norcross said. “It’s the administration’s job to educate, not monitor their students. With this law, parents will know exactly what their child is bringing into the house and their responsibility in using it.”

In what has since been dubbed “WebcamGate,” staff at the Lower Merion school district remotely accessed students’ school-issued laptops while the students were using them at home. Over 66,000 images of students taken by their laptop cameras had been transmitted to district administrators without their knowledge.

Senator Norcross’s bill requires a school district that furnishes a student with a laptop, computer, cellular telephone, or other electronic device to provide students and their families with written notice that the device may record or collect information on the students’ activities. The notice is required to include a form that provides for a parent or guardian signature acknowledging receipt of the notice. This can be provided either by written document or electronically.

“When parents feel comfortable about their kid’s school-issued electronic devices, they can focus on helping with homework,” Senator Norcross added. “At the same time, schools can be assured that their devices are being used properly.”

The law takes effect immediately.