By Chris Parsons
Couple sue after laptop-trackers capture sexually explicit pictures of woman who was sold stolen device
A couple are to sue a laptop-tracking company who recorded their sexually-explicit webcam communications.
Staff at Absolute Software were hunting down the thieves who stole the computer when they captured the sexually explicit content of Susan Clements-Jeffrey from Ohio.
She was using the laptop after it had been posted missing and was unaware that the computer was the subject of an online investigation to track it down by the computer company.
The computer security firm had been trying to trace the thieves who originally stole the laptop which ended up in Mrs Clements-Jeffrey’s possession.
But in capturing pictures exchanged between the substitute teacher and her boyfriend Carlton Smith, from Boston, a judge ruled the firm went too far and violated the couple’s privacy.
A theft recovery agent for Absolute Software, Kyle Magnus, is said to have intercepted emails and electronic communications to and from Mrs Clements-Jeffrey’s computer.
This included naked pictures of the teacher, one of which showed her with her legs apart.
The worker then submitted the images to police, who tracked Clements-Jeffrey down and arrived at her apartment with the pictures.
She was arrested and charged for receiving stolen property but the charges were dismissed a week later.
A judge ruled last week that Mrs Clements-Jeffrey and Smith can sue Absolute Software for violating their privacy.
Widow Mrs Clements-Jeffrey, 52, and her high school boyfriend Smith have since taken legal action against Absolute Software, Mr Magnus, the city of Springfield, Ohio, and two police officers.
They allege that the police violated their Fourth Amendment rights, and that Absolute violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Stored Communications Act and intentionally invaded their privacy.
The case rests largely on whether Clements-Jeffrey knew the laptop she bought was stolen and whether she and her boyfriend then had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
U.S. District Judge Walter Rice said in his decision: ‘It is one thing to cause a stolen computer to report its IP address or its geographical location in an effort to track it down.
‘It is something entirely different to violate federal wiretapping laws by intercepting the electronic communications of the person using the stolen laptop.’
Clements-Jeffrey, who was a long-term substitute teacher at Kiefer Alternative School, Ohio, insisted she had no idea the laptop was stolen.
The 52-year-old had recently renewed a romance with Smith, her high school sweetheart.
In the course of their courtship, she exchanged sexually explicit email and instant messages with him using the computer she had just purchased.
She was unaware that Clark County School District, which legally owned the laptop, had purchased Absolute’s theft recovery service, which includes the installation of its remote-recovery software LoJack, onto client computers.
The system gives Absolute employees remote access to a stolen computer and allows them to record and intercept any data from the machine.
After the school district reported the laptop stolen, Absolute began collecting the IP address from Clements-Jeffrey’s laptop when it connected to the internet, before theft recovery agent Mr Magnus stepped in.
According to Absolute’s web site, it recovers on average 14 laptops a day.
Asked if the company’s agents have changed the way they operate in light of the lawsuit, Absolute spokesman Stephen Midgley declined to comment.