Are you afraid that hidden cameras might be spying on you when you travel? In 2022, the concern over spycams in hotels and vacation rentals can no longer be dismissed as far-fetched.
In last years, news stories show a disturbing new trend, as travellers keep discovering hidden cameras in their accommodations.
Often the devices are “cleverly” hidden in innocuous-looking items such as smoke detectors, alarm clocks, phone chargers and even shampoo bottles and deodorant sticks.
Quick online search while writing this post reveals that spycams were discovered in a Sydney hostel, a Miami Airbnb, and hotels in India, China and even in San Francisco and Minneapolis. In South Korea, a gang was caught secretly filming and live-streaming 100s of motel guests.
The trend of using spy cams is driven by innovation and accessibility. Today the technology is much easy to use and hard to discover. Think of a a micro camera lens the size of a nail head. Some are invisible to the naked eye. They just blends in the surroundings.
Initially spy cameras were sold on Chinese websites. Nowadays, even reputable online retailers blatantly sell them. Products can be as cheap as 30 Eur.
The latest spy cams run on a Wi-Fi and are connected to cloud-based servers. They have simple, DIY set-up where users can access the footage online. Sadly what they lack is data protection. Highly invasive data is created and stored by bad-acting third parties.
Hiding cameras in hotel rooms is illegal in the United States, the EU and many other countries. Hotels are unlikely to put any sort of surveillance in guest rooms. However individual bad actors — hotel employees, contractors or guests — who may have access to the room.
A survey by property investment firm IPX1031 of over 2,000 Airbnb guests found that one in 10 guests had found hidden cameras in an Airbnb rental.To their credit Airbnb’s policy specifically prohibits hidden cameras. Hosts may install non-covert security cameras and other recording devices in the common areas of the home, as long as the devices are disclosed to renters. At the same time violations happen
Finding a hidden camera
- Be smart about your surroundings.
- Pay attention to items that seem out of place.
- Be careful of any electronics, phone chargers etc. Generally things not supposed to be there
With the rapid increase in the number of hidden cameras has come a slew of ways to protect your privacy, including a large number of detection apps. Launched several years ago, the Hidden Camera Detector app has received a surge in downloads over the past six months and now boasts over half a million users, according to Andrews. The iPhone app is free to try for three days and then has a $3.99-a-month subscription.
Using the camera and flashlight on your smartphone, Hidden Camera Detector can help detect the pinhole lens of a spycam in a room. It will also scan for suspicious devices on Wi-Fi, local networks and Bluetooth. “Spy cameras act differently on a network than standard security cameras,” explains Andrews. “Our app is able to distinguish a covert camera on the network based on where it’s reaching out to on the cloud.”
“We make it really simple,” says Andrews. “There’s a red box, a yellow box, and a green box. Red means that there’s a high probability that this is a spy camera. Yellow identifies non-covert devices that can be accessed from the internet; that might include a Nest camera or a similar standard security camera. And green just tells you what else is connected to your Wi-Fi network.”
“Lastly, ” advises Andrews. “Hotel housekeepers are specifically instructed to sweep rooms for items left behind by previous guests. If a phone charger was left plugged into the wall in a bathroom, the cleaning crew would have pulled that out. So you want to .”
“You don’t have to be afraid or overly paranoid,” says Andrews. “Just be a little more aware of what’s around you.”
about your surroundings. Pay attention to items that seem out of place,
There is also the Hidden Camera Detector app. The iPhone app is free to try for three days and then has a monthly subscription.
Have you been to place with a place with a suspicious device installed? Leave a comment and share your experience with our community.