Sex, spycams and cinemascope
Take care before you change clothes, before
you take a shower. You could be on camera. That
cute little bug inside the bathroom cabinet,
behind the dressing table mirror, could make you
an actor very soon.
When I was a kid, I went to a small-town
private school run by Jesuits. The school, with
standards 5 to 10 had two divisions in each
standard. With 50 students in each standard, it
added up to 600 students in all. It was supposed
to be a prestigious school in the small-town
The new school principal, a priest who had just
returned from the US, initially found the boys'
school a little ruly and unmanageable. When I
entered standard ten, the principal got audio
speakers installed in every division in the
school, besides the faculty room, so that he could
give instructions to his 'audience' from the
comfort of his office. Shortly thereafter, audio
listeners were installed into the same speaker
boxes, so that the Principal could listen in on
what was happening in the class, who was creating
mischief, and which teacher was "too
lenient" on noisy students.
It was an effective way of keeping tabs. We
knew about the annoying speaker boxes, which we
thought were one-way communication. It was not
until the principal's peon came looking for
several of us that we knew that he was also
listening to our liberal remarks on him. That was
1988. The days of VCRs, black and white TVs and
A good 16 years have passed by.
In September 2004, a news item in the
Australian press went thus: A spy camera was
discovered from a women's shower at the
prestigious Lincoln College, in Adelaide. The
hostel provides accommodation for almost 250
university students. The principal termed the
incident "frightening". The Australian
Attorney-General described the incident as
"sickening and perverted." He also said
that South Australia did not yet have proper
legislation to tackle such incidents -- a dilemma
faced by many nations who have surrendered their
privacy to the techno-voyeurs.
In Pune, Kulkarni, a 58-year old gentleman was
arrested for installing spy cameras in his house
to snoop on the girls living there on rental
basis. He was accused of watching the girls in his
bed room TV. The girls left the bungalow. The
police dismantled the spycams and wiring. It was
not found whether he published the video material
or even stored them in a digital format.
This comes close on the heels of the stolen
images of a Tamil movie actress Trisha Krishnan
taking a shower - later proven fake - apparently
shot by a spycam. The Delhi Public School MMS sex
scandal, another case of techno-voyeurism, is
already behind us. The Miss Jammu Anara Gupta CD
case has already been disproved by the Hyderabad
Forensic Lab, which rejected the Jammu Police's
contention that the model had appeared in a porn
CD on sale.
It is not as if spy cameras were out of action
for long. It is just that they have suddenly
become hugely popular. Technology awareness among
potential users, easy availability and improved
ease of use have led to a proliferation of spycams.
Lights, action, spy camera!
Spy cameras have become, for good or bad,
increasingly popular tools for use at home, office
and outside for surveillance. There has been a
sudden outrage against the use of spycams in the
media and by concerned citizens. First the
Even enemies of spycams will concede that many
of the benefits of spycams are unmatched. Abroad,
many young mothers, when they leave their baby
with a baby-sitter keep a spycam running so that
they can keep tabs. Many offices and department
stores legitimately use spycams to keep pilferers
away. In another avatar, the spycam is used as a
door camera, to see who is outside, without
opening the door. Many residential complexes use a
camera at the building entrance to watch the
visitors and ward off undesirable elements.
Security systems in many labs and industrial
complexes use a web of surveillance devices,
including spycams to prevent leakage of sensitive,
In a study conducted by babycentre.com among
16,000 British women, it was found that 66% of the
interviewees said they were ready to install a
spycam to check on their nannies, if that option
was available. Only 8% said they won't.
But, is security any excuse to invade on
someone's privacy? If spycam usage is left to each
individual's discretion, what happens? Many feel
that filming someone unknowingly steps on one's
privacy rights. Rights apart, if someone comes to
know you are spying on him/her, the first response
is mostly likely a tight slap. Rights and
responsibilities comes only later.
A spycam is very ease to use. Almost as simple
as a camera phone, the other
innovation-cum-menace. The spy camera, antenna,
DC/AC adaptor and wires can be put together in
less than five minutes. For a practised voyeur,
just three minutes. The spy camera can be linked
to a computer and configured to transmit the
signal on the Internet, or over a network.
Remember 'American Beauty'?
The spycam can be concealed in many innocent
looking objects, like toys, radios, clocks,
speakers, smoke alarms, even Ganeshas. Some of
them come with night vision and are powered by
mains adaptor or battery. An audio facility is
available on most covert cameras, which picks up
speech up to 20 feet away.
With a mobile receiver for pocket PCs designed
for Windows, with a spycam, you can access and
look around your home, or control home automation
devices and more when on the move.
Some spycams are wired to a TV or a closed
circuit system (as in merchant establishments).
These are not concealed and the wires are visible
too. The more deadly spycams come with a wireless
transmitter. Some manufacturers claim that their
spycams can transmit the wireless signal to 1000
feet, through walls and obstructions. A snooper in
an apartment a couple of blocks away could be
looking into your bed room, if the room has been
infected with one of those cute little bugs.
Many people are still wondering about the legal
implications of using a spycam or an MMS camera
phone. There is no clear legislation in this
regard. In India, it becomes a crime under the IT
Act, if the material is published. It is not clear
if a person can be charged for snooping under the
Act if the material is not transmitted.
Don't breathe easy, you voyeur! Laws on
violation of privacy, defamation, Law of Tort, --
and if the victim is a female, outraging modesty
-- all come into play, if you get caught with your
pants down! In Malaysia, for example, the crime
can be punished under the Multi-media Act, if the
digital content is transmitted. Thus, wireless
spycams immediately fall under its purview, while
wired spy cameras escape the net, though the
impact of both are the same. In the absence of
precedents in this regard, there is little light
thrown on the subject.
Dancewithshadows.com advises you to keep your
hands off unwanted stuff. How about spying on the
girl next door and have your photo published in
the newspaper next morning showing the hawaldar
dragging you out of the house in your pajamas?
Won't help you impress her parents much, we are