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Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? Maybe cover up your laptop camera with a sticky note, just in case?
If so, your suspicions aren’t irrational. In fact, evidence suggests a growing number of people today are being recorded in their most private moments without knowing.
Voyeurism—or the practice of gaining sexual gratification from observing the private, intimate moments of others—is a disturbing phenomenon that popular porn sites are capitalizing on.
There’s been a disturbing rise in reports of unknowing participants secretly being filmed with tiny hidden cameras in places like dressing rooms, locker rooms, bathroom stalls, hotel rooms, showers, and even hospital labor and delivery rooms or doctor’s offices, and the footage is often distributed online to porn sites for mass consumption.
As difficult as it may be to process, this issue is something to consider. But the possibility of it doesn’t have to leave you feeling paranoid or powerless, especially when you’re armed with ways to protect yourself.
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The growing movement against spy cam porn
The encouraging news is, as more and more victims are detecting secret cameras and speaking out against their exploiters, there are safeguards we can all learn from their stories.
In South Korea, many women have reported being filmed with cameras hidden in small objects, bathroom stall screws, public toilets, staircases, subway stations, buses, taxis, swimming pools, and even men’s shoes. These women typically suffer from very little help from law enforcement, and say they’ve had to develop their own defensive habits to protect themselves.
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But they’re fighting back. On June 9, 2018, over 22,000 Korean women rallied in a public demonstration in Hyehwa, Seoul to fight against illegal filming, declaring, “My body is not your porn.” This sparked a larger movement in South Korea that has called out spy cam porn culture.
Hidden cameras also seem to be an issue in Airbnb’s, with more reports of hidden cameras found in rentals over the past several years—like this man who found two hidden cameras disguised as phone chargers, or this couple who found a camera in an alarm clock pointing at their bed.
Although Airbnb states that hosts are required to disclose all security cameras in their listings and that cameras are never allowed in private spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms, this is clearly an issue that they can’t guarantee protection from.
And Airbnb isn’t the only risky spot for travelers. Earlier in 2019, over 1,500 hotel guests at 30 locations across South Korea were secretly filmed. The footage was live-streamed to a private site where members paid a monthly fee to access the videos.
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While victims are often filmed by strangers—like this young mother whose cell phone was hacked and live-streamed to a porn site—many are actually filmed by someone they know, like a family member or significant other.
Help finding a hidden camera
If you feel you’re in an unsafe place, or you want to check your dressing room or hotel room just to be safe, here are a few tips these cases can teach about identifying hidden cameras.
1. Scan the area for suspicious items.
Cameras can be less than an inch in size and are often hidden in small objects. Check things like smoke detectors, air filters, electrical outlets, bluetooth speakers, shelves, decor, seating, and tables. Give special attention to gathering areas, bathrooms, and bedrooms. Watch for suspicious wires, chargers, batteries, adapters, lenses, lights, or holes in the walls or ceiling. Identify items in peculiar positions or locations. Know the amenities offered in your room and check any additional items that aren’t listed.
2. Check for two-way mirrors.
Here’s an easy trick: put your fingertip on the mirror and look closely at the reflection. If there’s a small gap between your finger and the reflected image, it’s a real mirror. If your fingertip and its reflection touch tip to tip, this is a two-way mirror. There might be a hidden camera inside the mirror.
3. Turn off the lights to spot night vision cameras.
Watch for blinking red or green LED lights that are difficult to see during the daytime. You can also use a flashlight to look for unusual reflective lights coming from an object.
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4. Use your phone to locate cameras.
Surveillance cameras emit a radio frequency that interferes with phone call signals, so try making a call and watch for signal interference. There are also several hidden camera detector apps you can download for Android or iOS.
Most cameras need infrared technology to record when it’s dark. The front-facing camera on most phones won’t have an IR filter and can pick up light that’s normally not visible on a camera screen. With the screen facing you, walk around a dark room and watch for flashing areas.
Lastly, try an app that can scan the wifi network for all connected devices—including cameras.
5. Buy a professional detector device.
Radio frequency (RF) detectors won’t work for cameras with complex signals or SD cards, but can detect cameras that use radio frequencies to transmit information. You can also purchase a hidden camera lens detector that senses light reflecting off the lens of a recording camera.
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6. Bring your own camera when traveling.
If you’re checking out somewhere you’ll be for a while, install your own camera to see who enters your room without permission or if someone comes to check on a device they’ve installed.
7. If you find a hidden camera, don’t touch it.
Moving the camera could interfere with the investigation of your case. Take photos or video of where the cameras are located, then leave immediately and call the police.
Stop the demand for spy cam porn
Spycam porn is a popular genre that fetishizes the real-life violation of privacy. Sadly, it’s widely accepted as a matter of “taste” rather than an injustice to people—mostly women—being publicly sexually objectified without their knowledge or consent.
Related: How The Porn Industry Profits Off Of Privacy Violation
The reality is, the porn industry doesn’t care about people’s privacy. Porn sites will often capitalize on what’s seen as an opportunity for profit—providing a platform for “spying” videos where the main thrill of the content is violating the privacy and dignity of real people.
If people weren’t willing to consume someone’s private moments for their own pleasure, perpetrators would lose their power. Rather than accepting a world where people feel the need to constantly protect themselves, let’s envision one where the demand dissolves and this type of exploitation doesn’t exist.