Pros and Cons of Online Surveillance; The Webcam Story.
Internet or online surveillance has been described as “the monitoring of activities of an individual, group or groups of people” (Mobbs, 2003). One central method for online surveillance, which is on the rise across the globe, is using webcams for surveillance within the home; in order to provide a sense of security and privacy. Of course, online surveillance can be used for a number of other reasons and in many different ways; such as police looking for criminals through CCTV cameras or for journalistic reasons. However, I have chosen to discuss, in this blog post, some of the advantages and disadvantages of online surveillance through the use of webcams in people’s homes. I have chosen to discuss this aspect of online surveillance as it relates the most to myself as my family and I use our home webcam frequently, and also because it has recently been on the news.
One technique, which is becoming increasingly popular around the world, is using a webcam as a surveillance method to capture footage within your house. This is one advantage of online surveillance; the webcams can be used to monitor your household when it is empty in order to capture any unusual activity, if it were to occur. For example, it could be useful in catching burglars or any other inappropriate activity within the home. Using webcams to monitor also gives homeowners a sense of security and privacy, another advantage of online surveillance. Using these cameras to survey gives the owners the confidence that activity will be caught on camera, allowing them to phone the police or take the appropriate action. Therefore, online surveillance allows people to feel their homes are more secure and privatized, even when they are not in, and also allows the houses to be monitored, encouraging the safety of the residents.
On the other hand, online surveillance also has its disadvantages. While using webcams as a surveillance method has been on the increase, so has the number of webcams which are being hacked. These cameras are being used with the intention to provide security, however, more increasingly, they are instead providing surveillance footage that everyone can view online (Smith, 2014). This is the first disadvantage of surveillance; the recordings captured can be streamed to everyone online due to the cameras being hacked, which is a severe invasion of privacy. This makes me slightly worried as my brother uses the webcam a lot to Skype his friends and I am wary that he could be being watched. My anxieties were heightened when the Daily Mail reported about a website which is showing footage stolen from hacked webcams. The people behind this are hacking webcams which are connected to the internet and are being used as surveillance tools or for other online reasons (Gordon, 2014). They are able to hack these cameras as the owners have not changed the default password on their computer or laptop. The website is now showing recordings from over 73,000 different webcams around the world which highlights how severe this problem is. Since reading about this report, I have ensured that the password on my home computer has been changed so there is less chance of it being hacked and we can ensure our privacy.
I have included the link to the BBC News website where a charity warns about these webcam hackers and a girl from Glasgow tells her story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22967622
Overall, there are both advantages and disadvantages of online surveillance; obviously, there are many others that this blog has not mentioned due to the word limit. As mentioned previously, I wanted to focus on the use of webcams as an online surveillance technique within the home as it was in the news recently and relates most to myself. However, I have acknowledged that online surveillance can be used for many other reasons and in many other ways, such as CCTV cameras within the public domain.
If you are using webcams for surveillance within your home, just remember someone could be watching, so take precaution.
Dancter. (2009). Webcam on Laptop. Retrieved from http://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Webcam_On_Laptop.JPG
Gordon, J. (2014). Is this creepy website live-streaming YOUR living room? 73,000 webcams now viewable to anyone because their owners haven’t set a password. Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2826632/Caught-73-000-internet-cameras-Bedrooms-living-rooms-world-viewable-owners-haven-t-set-password.html
Mobbs, P. (2003). Privacy and Surveillance. Retrieved from http://www.internetrights.org.uk/briefings/irtb05-rev1-draft.pdf
Smith. (2014). Peeping into 73,000 unsecured security cameras thanks to default passwords. Retrieved from http://www.networkworld.com/article/2844283/microsoft-subnet/peeping-into-73-000-unsecured-security-cameras-thanks-to-default-passwords.html