School for scandal: FBI spyware nabs pervy principal

Out of paranoia/parental concern, FBI agent installs spyware on son's laptop -- and unearths unsavory actions by school chief

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Now Weindl's in the jungle -- out of a job and facing criminal charges, as it seems he should. The question, though, is whether Auther violated Weindl's rights by obtaining this evidence illegally. So far, the court has ruled in favor of the feds, saying that a) because the laptop did not belong to Weindl, his expectation of privacy is lower, and b) because Auther found the evidence essentially by accident, not as part of an official investigation, it did not constitute an illegal warrantless search.

Still, this feels painfully similar to another recent case where a federal agent turned a personal matter into a criminal one -- and ultimately took down the head of the CIA.

When spooks spy on their kids -- and happen to ensnare adults doing things they shouldn't -- isn't that illegal spying? I asked cyber lawyer Jonathan Ezor, Director of the Touro Law Center Institute for Business, Law and Technology in Islip, New York.

Though Ezor cautioned that he is not a criminal attorney, he says Auther's discovery of Weindl's dark deeds probably falls under the "in plain sight" exception for evidence. If you open the door for the cops and they see a big pile of cocaine sitting on your coffee table, they have every right to break down the door, then seize you and the drugs, no warrant required.

The more important issue, says Ezor, was what the feds told Weindl when they sat down with him in his office and whether they read him his rights. That might have a greater bearing on whether his Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

On the other hand, Justin P. Webb of the CyberCrime Review blog says the court was wrong across the board (though he's saving his reasons why for a future blog post).

That Weindl was both stupid and wrong seems pretty obvious, assuming his confession holds up. But were the feds stupid and/or wrong here as well?

Where does your privacy end and Uncle Sam's right to spy on you begin? Post your public thoughts below or email your private ones directly to me:

This article, "School for scandal: FBI spyware nabs pervy principal," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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