Courtney Allan

Travel Trouble

Hidden camera technology is booming: What this means for your privacy

Hidden camera technology is booming: What this means for your privacy

With stories about people finding hidden cameras and other technology in their AirBnb’s and apartment rentals, some people are curious as to why and where the hidden technology boom has come from.

Bruce Baer Arnold, an associate professor of law and justice at Canberra University, told his thoughts on the matter.

“Fifteen years ago, the technology that was available was expensive and a bit quirky and was mostly bought by law enforcement, private investigators and uber geeks.”

He added, “But we’re seeing the Kmart effect where availability has boomed and prices have fallen, so now anybody can get their hands on them.”

Some of the objects that are able to conceal cameras include hats, fake car key fobs, watches, picture frames, wall clocks, television remotes, notebooks and music speakers. Some of the technology also has hidden video recorders inside them, so that the footage can be looked at later.

Depending on what you’re after and what website you buy it from, it could set you back $20 or $168.

University of Technology Sydney law professor Kristopher Wilson says that this is a real problem for privacy.

“We don’t have any real standards or control mechanisms for the development and sale of these devices,” he said.

“That’s an issue for cyber security as well as privacy. There’s a plethora of flow-on effects from this.”

Although stories of technology being found in apartment rentals are nothing new, there are more sinister uses for the hidden technology.

“An emerging problem is ‘cyber gaslighting’ where these kind of devices are being used in domestic violence situations,” Mr Wilson said.

“It might be a husband who installs them to monitor his wife’s movements to harass and intimidate. It’s a relatively new phenomenon.”

Dr Baer Arnold says that context was key when it comes to determining the legality of using the devices, which again, raises a host of issues.

“The big issue we’ve got is that the law is so profoundly inconsistent between the states and territories. And then there are cases where a potential offence would be dealt with by Commonwealth laws.

“It’s all a bit rocky, and some of the laws have been shown to be outdated. We’ve had instances in the past where an invasion of privacy with a video recording was deemed fine because the sound was off. That’s a bizarre situation.”

However, it seems like the law will consistently be playing catch up. Dr Baer Arnold believes that restricting the sale of the technology won’t help matters.

“Like all technology, it can be used for good and it can be used for bad,” he said.

“Take drone technology. Drones can protect the environment and help in emergencies. They can also be used to spy and to kill. It’s about context. Just restricting something doesn’t work.”