Sophie Browning investigates Amazon best sellers Mini Spy Cameras. After all… we’re nervous enough with the university using AI to spy on us during exams. Let’s keep the paranoia going!
Espionage! Technology has evolved since lipstick and pen recording devices. Further, the demand for hidden cameras has soared. Mini spy cameras are “Amazon best-sellers.” They can be as small as a thumb and placed in the house, in the garden, in your pocket, in a car or even mounted on a drone. But Amazon has become even more creative with these hidden cameras. These mini spyware have become even more inconspicuous, posing as household and personal items. Recent articles on hidden cameras in Airbnbs drew my attention to this issue: what kind of imperceptible spyware can you buy and how do you spot them?
In incognito mode and with my tinfoil hat, I scrolled through Amazon and came across some bizarre and diverse finds. Hidden cameras in picture frames, smoke detectors, and clocks are popular choices. Coat hooks and phone chargers are spies on the wall. In your office, check your pencil holder and flick through all your notebooks. If you see a micro SD card slot and an ON/OFF button, that book’s fishy. Living rooms can also have a plethora of potential hidden cameras. Inspect lamps, pillows, the TV remote, router, and even the blu-ray player. There’s a chance they’re lurking. Even the “innocent” air freshener could have 4K night vision and Wi-Fi-enabled functions. You can’t even trust your favourite teddy bear or the birdhouse in the garden. Also be on guard when you’re playing monopoly, the dice could be watching your next move.
Although many spy cameras on Amazon sell for under $100, it seems the more obscure the hidden camera, the more expensive they are. For instance, you can buy a $300 stylish baseball hat with a hidden camera. But, with these more expensive and obscure products, their ratings tend to be as low as one or two stars. Usually for the fact that the camera often does not work or the recording is incredibly sub-par for the $300 margin.
If you want to kit yourself out while being mobile, the best value option is a pair of spy glasses. They tend to be more favourable with Amazon reviewers and less expensive. But if glasses aren’t your thing, there are many other alternatives for spying while you’re out and about. In your bag, you can take non-functioning car keys and a water bottle as your little snitches. On your wrist, you can sport a watch with HD 1080p recording. You can also wear non-functioning earphones and carry a $630 coffee cup. According to the seller, “you can record covert video as far as your eyes can see while appearing to be minding your own business sipping on your coffee.” If coffee isn’t your thing, try a vape and record others through your strawberry smoke.
Despite the accesssibility and diversity of these cameras, it’s how these spyware are used that matters. A few Amazon reviews suggest that people use these “little buggers” to catch their partners cheating, record business meetings and abusive bosses, or use them as covert GoPros. But most reviews imply that customers’ usage of spy cameras is relatively “innocent.” Apparently people often use them to check on their housekeepers, babysitters, pets, small children, new flat mates, and “belligerent neighbours.” So if you fall into any of those categories, watch your back! It is worth noting the legality of these hidden cameras. In New Zealand, it is generally considered that covert cameras are only permissible if the user believes that wrong doing is taking place. But hidden cameras cannot be used as a chance to potentially catch someone out. Further, in terms of more illicit forms of surveillance, Amazon searches seem to filter out any products that are clearly intended for perverted use. But these kinds of products are easily found on Aliexpress, such as shower heads with hidden cameras.
But scoping out these tiny hidden cameras can be so difficult to identify with the naked eye. Many Amazon customers have purchased “anti-spy camera detectors” to check for bugged hotel rooms and Airbnbs. Although these detectors supposedly have success, I don’t think it’s necessary to fork out money for these go-go-gadgets. It is so easy to get caught up in the paranoia once you realise how inconspicuous and easily accessible these spyware products are. There’s no need to obsess, instead it’s best to be aware of this technology and what is permissible. But if your tissue box has a flashing red light, I’d be a little concerned…