The Walls Have Eyes

I was at the “Big Orange Store” as Eric of GardenFork calls it, looking for shelf hardware. Using their app (because human employees can be hard to find) I searched for “hidden shelf.” I was looking for something like this:

The app, however, autocompleted “hidden camera.” That’s odd, I thought, and followed the link. It turns out that Home Depot has your pervy spying needs covered.

There’s the “LizaCam USB Wall Plug with Hidden IP Camera.”

The “Revo Wall Clock with Hidden Built-in Covert Camera.”

The “Bush Baby Smoke Detector DVR Hidden Camera with 30-Hour Battery and 16GB Memory” and many more: fans, alarm clocks, power adapters etc all equipped with hidden cameras.

Could their be legitimate uses for these devices? Maybe the sight of a baby monitor offends your aesthetic sensibilities and you’d prefer it discretely hidden in a smoke alarm? Possible but unlikely. We all know but don’t want to think about these inexpensive electronics in the hands of Airbnb voyeurs. While our ancestors once scanned the savanna in the hopes of bagging a gazelle for dinner we moderns can spend our time searching for cameras hidden in our toasters and lamps.

I’ll also note how the Home Depot website has come to resemble Amazon, where every whim and thought of our collective subconscious achieves physical embodiment via an ever growing network of cheap Chinese factories. Marcel Duchamp’s readymades are seeming less like conceptual art and more like a blueprint for eCommerce. If I blog about a “R.Mutt urinal fountain with hidden camera” will they make one? How about a hidden camera with a hidden camera in it?

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12 Comments

  1. People sometimes use hidden as a way to watch their childrens’ caregivers (or caregivers for elderly or disabled adults). I’ve seen similar referred to as a “nanny-cam”. Is that a legitimate use? Maybe, maybe not? Certainly it would seem like the most ethical thing would be to notify whoever is taking care of your kids that you’re monitoring them. But then they could move any abusive behavior to a place they know it won’t be caught on camera.

    Ideally, of course, you’d trust your caregivers but that’s not always possible. This doesn’t strike me as the right way to solve that problem, but I don’t doubt that some people are using hidden cameras with the aim of protecting their family members.

    And then, there are plenty of other people who … aren’t.

    • There was a camera placed in Dad’s house ostensibly to keep an eye on his caregiver, but it was actually there so that three of my siblings could eavesdrop on what the other two of us were saying to Dad. We found out that the camera could possibly violate wiretap law in that it recorded conversations not involving Dad and thus conversations to which Dad’s guardians were not legally privy – like when my sister talked to her attorney on the phone while Dad napped. Bottom line: be careful if you use this stuff.

    • I have a neighbor who is a professional nanny. It’s legal to record video in your own home and to observe the behavior of employees. She is regularly made aware of the presence of multiple cameras as part of her work environment.

      When I was in college (a long time ago in the age of VCRs) security cameras were used at a place I worked. The management reminded us all of the security system which was explicitly used to monitor employee performance.

    • Depends on the situation. Your neighbor certainly can place a camera in her own home to keep track of what is going on there. It’s different with Dad.

      My attorney (former US attorney who prosecuted the Mob, knows wiretap law like the back of his hand) says that the camera recording Dad/recording any person directly interacting with Dad is O.K. and Dad’s legal guardians may place it in Dad’s house. However, when the camera records, for example, my sister’s phone conversation with her attorney when she is not interacting with Dad, it runs afoul of the law since the guardians do not have the legal right to record anything that does not directly involve Dad. Sounds like hair-splitting, but when her attorney informed the guardians’ lawyer of the potential violation, the camera was removed the next day. I don’t know what would happen if your neighbor recorded personal conversations the nanny was having with her doctor, therapist, etc. while in your neighbor’s house; that might cross a line.

  2. Looks like the USB wall plug and the smoke detector didn’t get sterling ratings. They’re awfully pricey for two star reviews.

  3. I take a lot of photos for my blog. I’m regularly scolded by people on the street and constantly approached by police and security guards for taking photos in public in broad daylight. This is totally legal, by the way.

    It bothers people to have a strange human taking photos of their cul-de-sac or drive-thru burger joint since they don’t know who I am or what I might be doing with those photos. I understand and I’m always happy to delete the photos immediately right in front of them. Their parking lot isn’t that special.

    Then I look around and point. Camera. Camera. Camera. Camera. They’re everywhere. I ask them how they feel about those photos and live streaming videos. “That’s different.” Indeed they are.

  4. Now that I have been to the Home Depot site and searched for the wall plug and clock with hidden cameras, I’m sure that I will be served up with all manner of similar items on that site and others. I have always wondered what my two dogs and two cats do when I am away from home during the day. Maybe this is my chance.

    • Now you will know. We have a dog cam and the truth is that he just sleeps while we are gone.

    • YouTube is filled with videos of dogs left alone who shred pillows, eat all sorts of inedible things and vomit them up, wreck furniture . . . Count your blessings that your dog doesn’t get ideas from YouTube.

      I know that when I’m not home my cats roll around on all the upholstered furniture they’re not supposed to touch. It’s pretty obvious by the wads of cat hair on the sofa. They also eat houseplants (the very same ones that they feign indifference to when we’re watching) and then throw up the plant bits onto the carpet.

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