As many concerned parents probably do, FBI Special Agent Joseph Auther installed a piece of monitoring software on the laptop his son received from the school he attended to keep track of his online activities.
After the laptop was returned, he was shocked to learn that the school’s principal continued to use it for less orthodox purposes.
Monitoring solutions offered by SpectorSoft have often helped companies in identifying “bad” employees and even insider threats. However, it seems that some of the products provided by the firm can be used not only to supervise children, but also to investigate crimes.
According to Forbes, Auther took the laptop to his colleagues from the FBI and asked them to wipe it clean before giving it back to the school at the end of the year. However, the cleaning process wasn’t as effective as it was supposed to be and the SpectorSoft product, eBlaster, remained on the device.
A week after returning the computer to Whispering Palms principal Thomas Weindl, Auther received an alert from eBlaster which notified him that his son’s laptop was being utilized to search for adult content featuring children.
This is the point where the FBI agent went into investigation mode. He called up Weindl and told him that he wanted to purchase the laptop.
The principal told him that it had been returned to the Public School System (PSS). Auther paid the PSS a visit to learn if that was true. After learning that the computer hadn’t been returned, he attempted to convince his ISP to hand over the location of the device based on the IP address provided by the eBlaster software.
Although he couldn’t obtain that information, the agent kept monitoring Weindl’s online activity.
In the end, Auther contacted another FBI agent and confronted the principal at his office. Weindl admitted to searching for the illegal content out of “morbid curiosity.” He claimed to have destroyed the laptop, throwing its parts in the jungle.
The principal has been arrested and charged. He was also relieved of his position at Whispering Palms.
Despite the fact that Weindl claimed that the agent had placed the "spyware" on the computer without any authorization, the judge who handled the case argued that Auther installed the application as a private citizen, not as an employee of the government.
She also explained that although the agent should have handed over the investigation to his colleagues sooner, the principal’s rights haven’t been violated.