In the summer of 2021, an MIT student named Zachary Sperber became a magnet for unwanted attention, because he’d been invited to participate in a live webcam session that was hosted at the University of Cambridge.
At the time, the university was hosting an open online chat session for undergraduates.
Sperberg and his friends were the only ones there, and the host, a Cambridge-based computer science student named Matt Daley, was the one who invited them to join the chat.
The chat was supposed to be an informal forum for Sperner and his fellow students to share their personal stories.
But after a few hours of chatting, Sperger realized that Daley was actually filming them.
When the group found out that they were being filmed, they called the police.
The Cambridge police department then contacted Sperbers family, who contacted the Massachusetts State Police and police departments across the country, according to a report by The Boston Globe.
“It was a very dark time,” Sperby said.
“I was in the dark about what had happened.”
Sperbert was arrested and charged with public indecency, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
The police report did not identify the students who filmed the session, but police officials said that at least one of the students in the chat was recorded by Daley.
A few days later, Daley’s mother, Jill, was at her son’s bedside, comforting him as he lay dying.
He was in his final days.
Jill Sperbery says the police did not follow the protocol.
“He never made a mistake in the whole chat,” she said.
The video of the webcam session shows that Dyson, a member of the Cambridge College Student Union, had a webcam in his room that he could use to record the session.
The recording lasted about five minutes.
The students’ attorney says that Dales reaction to the video is understandable: “He felt betrayed by his students, and he felt embarrassed,” said Paul DeFaria, an attorney for the Cambridge students.
“This is what happened to us.”
DeFarian said that the students were all friends, and that they shared a passion for computers.
“When I heard the video, I was like, Oh my God, they were all in a room and they all have cameras and everything,” said Sperry, who now works for a non-profit organization called Cambridge Campus Circle.
He said that after seeing the video and learning about the police investigation, he felt compelled to contact the police and report what had occurred.
He sent a letter to Cambridge police on May 14, two days after the webcam incident.
“The fact that I had to go through all this, I felt horrible,” Sabor said.
“[The police] said, ‘Well, you should file a report.’
I said, Oh, I’m going to file a complaint.”
Daley has since been charged with felony voyeurism and released on a $250,000 bond.
Dyson has since filed a civil lawsuit against Cambridge University and the Cambridge police, alleging that the police officers violated his civil rights by recording him in the room with his girlfriend.
DeFaron said that while the students did not realize they were recording in the webcam, they did realize that it was a violation of the MIT code of conduct.
He also said that Cambridge police officers were not notified about the recording.
“They were aware of it, and they knew how to stop it,” DeFaro said.
Cambridge police spokeswoman Jennifer Stapleton said that police officers are trained to record any interaction with anyone in the campus community, including when they are on campus or out in public places.
“Our officers are always alert to any such situations that may arise, and we take all such incidents very seriously,” Staplia said in a statement.
“We do not record any individuals in the privacy of their rooms or other private areas, but we do record any and all individuals who are in the vicinity of the camera,” Staper said.
A spokesperson for the Harvard University Police Department said that they do not discuss ongoing investigations, and declined to comment further.
“In a campus environment, where people have free time and free speech, it’s always good to maintain the right to free speech,” said Andrew B. Johnson, a senior fellow at the Harvard School of Law, who has reviewed the case.
But he said that as a general rule, campus security officers should always have a camera and should be trained in how to record people in private spaces.
“Anytime you have a campus where there’s no real expectation of privacy, it really puts you in an awkward position,” he said.
De Faria said that despite the fact that Cambridge College has a campus code of privacy that says that people are not allowed to videotape themselves in public, police have not been told about it and should not have been aware of