By: William Sikkens
Host, User Friendly 2.0 Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

We live in a world where everyday personal privacy erodes a little bit each day.  With the worldwide increase and use of the  Internet, the whole concept of privacy has changed.

With this change comes a number of devices that are designed to watch us.   Companies like Amazon’s Ring, Google’s Nest, and others have long developed and sold devices with cameras that watch our doorsteps, our homes, and our businesses.   Companies like Thinkware make car cameras.   Ring is developing a system for your car and even a drone that can fly around the inside of your house.

Most of these devices look and act like cameras.   They aren’t designed to be hidden.   If you ride in my car you can see the car camera system.   If you walk up to my video doorbell, it’s obvious there is a lens watching you there too.

But what about hidden surveillance cameras?   We see news articles where people are hiding cameras in all kinds of places.  Some are open public areas but others are places like children’s toys,  restrooms, and other locations that should remain private.

As technology advances and things get smaller, cameras can be placed in locations they never would have fit before.

This is becoming controversial and some are questioning if this is appropriate.  How far does monitoring need to go?

Some of these technologies include:

  • Minigagets camera smoke alarm is a device that looks like and is even branded as a First Alert Smoke and CO2 detector.  (First Alert is a well known and well liked brand of fire alarms and related products.  They don’t seem to actually have anything to do with this product).   But  this product isn’t a smoke detector and it contains 2 hardwired video cameras that stream everything to the Internet.   You can buy these on Amazon as well as other vendors.
  • Baby Bush makes a funcional outlet that installs in any outlet box.  The lower ground plug hides a camera.  This can be purchased at Home Depot, online at Amazon, and other retailers.
  • Amazon sells a clock radio with a camera built in that you can’t see.   There are also USB chargers, flashlights, pens and other devices that are fully equipped to secretly record you.

A question we get often asked is how can one protect oneself?   With this type of technology there are a few tricks.   One is to buy a hidden camera detector.  This device, which runs between $20 and $50, can “see” the camera you can’t.

Another trick is to turn on your cell phone camera and look around the room.  The infrared light that is part of most hidden cameras will look like a flashlight beam on your phone’s screen.   This isn’t 100% accurate but will pick up a majority of these hidden devices.

It is usually best to try and make a room as dark as possible when trying to find a camera with your phone.   This is because your phone is picking up the infrared light and a lot of cameras only turn their infrared light on when it’s dark.

Observing the speed and direction of this trend that we are going, someone may have a camera built into their glasses and record everything you talk about.

William (Bill) Sikkens has been an on-air technology expert since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler, who along with Jeremy Winkler are the co-hosts of User Friendly 2.0 here on The Answer Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

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Got a technology question or comment for Bill? Follow him on Twitter @sikkensw