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IP: ISPI Clips 5.47: High-Tech Spying Gear Not Just For 007
From: "ama-gi ISPI" <[email protected]>
Subject: IP: ISPI Clips 5.47: High-Tech Spying Gear Not Just For 007
Date: Fri, 16 Oct 1998 00:37:06 -0700
To: <[email protected]>
ISPI Clips 5.47: High-Tech Spying Gear Not Just For 007
News & Info from the Institute for the Study of Privacy Issues (ISPI)
Friday October 16, 1998
This From: ABC News.com, October 7, 1998
Surveillance Tools Get Smarter, Smaller
What the Watchers Use
Chris Stamper, [email protected]
Are you being watched? Or listened to? High-tech spying gear is making
surveillance easier as the equipment gets smaller. And it’s not restricted
to Big Brother. The Searchcam allows for filming in tight
Bill DeArman, a senior special agent of the Customs Service, says that
most privacy threats today come from gizmos bought in shopping malls, not
obtained on the black market from KGB or Mossad defectors. A cheap
disposable camera or a hand-held tape recorder can be as dangerous as the
latest surveillance equipment.
“People are looking for the ultimate gizmos, but the people who commit
crimes aren’t necessarily high-tech,” DeArman says.
What the Pros Use:
But if it’s the high-end, expensive gear you want, that’s increasingly
available to civilians.
Pinhole video cameras, for example, can be hidden in an wide variety of
household products. “You need a hole as small as 1/16 of an inch.” says
Jeff Hall, vice president of Gadgets By Design, a Lansing, Mich.-based
company that makes surveillance equipment. “We’ve put them in light
fixtures, computers and VCRs.”
A basic pinhole video cam costs $129, according to Hall.
They’re called “pinhole” because they have extremely small lenses, not
because they resemble the toys children make from oatmeal boxes. A wire
runs from the tiny TV camera to a transmitter or a recording VCR. Hall’s
company has hidden these cameras in hats, thermostats, wristwatches and
Most of the company’s sales come from businesses that want to keep
track of their stock or watch their employees. “If you wanted to put a
camcorder in the back room, it’s hard to do that inconspicuously,” he says.
“We have to get smaller and smaller to stay one step ahead of the bad
The Latest Fashion:
A New York company called Electronic Security Products sells wearable
cameras disguised as brooches, pens and eyeglasses. “They’re used for
recording video one-on-one,” says company president Avi Gilor. A wire runs
from the camera to a transmitter concealed in a pocket.
If there’s no light to see by, then infrared can come in handy.
Bakersfield, Calif.-based Search Systems sells the probelike Searchcam
($10,687) to law enforcement and rescue workers in tight corners. An
infrared camera shaped like a long nightstick, the Searchcam is meant to be
poked into small openings such as heat vents, doorways and windowsills.
“Officers in a high-risk situation can extend their eyes and ears in
places where they wouldn’t put their heads,” says Scott Park, president of
Listen to Birds—Not People:
U.S. law says little about video surveillance, so just about anyone can
watch you without fear of prosecution. Audio surveillance, on the other
hand, is regulated by the 1984 Omnibus Crime Control Act, and arrests and
prosecutions for eavesdropping are not uncommon. Ronald Kimble, America’s
biggest spy shop owner, is currently serving a five-month sentence after
being busted in 1995 on 70 counts of dealing in illegal wiretapping
equipment. Kimble spent 11 years as an agent with the Drug Enforcement
Agency before starting a chain of stores called The Spy Factory.
Bugging devices, often hidden in household items, are confiscated daily
at the border by Customs agents. The Customs Service says the law is too
weak, however; criminals only face up to six months for each count of
importing spy equipment. A camera could be hiding in what appears to be
a thermostat. (Gadgets by Design)
“The consensus of opinion is that technology has grown so rapidly, so
quickly, that laws aren’t up to speed,” says agent DeArman.
Often the legality of an item depends on its use. Parabolic
microphones, for example, can be legally used for bird-watching or for
professionally recording sports events. These devices, which look like
small, hand-held satellite dishes, are 75 times more powerful than standard
mikes and usually cost about $900.
“A parabolic microphone, if it looks like a dish at a football game, is
a legal device,” DeArman says “ If you disguise it as an umbrella to listen
to what people have to say, then it’s illegal.”
Copyright (c)1998 ABCNEWS
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