The movie Minority Report takes place in the year 2054. Surveillance cameras are not only everywhere, they’re legal and the fact that you’re constantly under surveillance is accepted by the populace. There’s a great scene where Tom Cruise’s character walks into The Gap, cameras scan his retinas, and he is then offered personalized shopping suggestions, presumably for futuristic khakis.
In the world of surveillance equipment, this may be the way things are headed. Right now, the Internet is flooded with thousands of types of hidden cameras and other surveillance gear that is readily available to anyone. The equipment itself is typically not illegal, but how it’s used usually is.
This post discusses the basics of how surveillance equipment works, the changing types of equipment, and what you can do to protect yourself against illegally placed gear.
An introduction to hidden surveillance devices
As the USDA illustrates for its businesses, these devices typically include three components:
1. Pickup: This is the part of the system that must be placed in the area that is going to be monitored. This would be the actual camera, microphone, or wiretap device. Sometimes these devices connect to a constant power source in the room, or they might require batteries that will need to be replaced regularly, requiring the person who installed the device to return to the room periodically.
2. Transmission: The images or sounds that are collected by the pick up component must be transmitted somehow to another location. The electrical impulses picked up may be transmitted using wires, but they are more frequently being conveyed using radio frequencies or other wireless connections.
3. Receiving: Lastly, there will be a remote monitoring or recording area. This is where the images and/or sounds are viewed, processed, and possibly stored. This post may be a considerable distance from the pickup device.
Increasing sophistication of equipment
While most eavesdropping equipment contains the elements listed above, they can vary significantly in terms of size, complexity, and abilities. Some systems are much more sophisticated than others.
1. Basic equipment: Basically anything you can get over the Internet. People purchase these items to spy on their spouses, nannies, or their professional rivals. While many of these devices are quite small, and difficult to detect, an experienced private investigator can generally uncover them with ease.
2. Highly sophisticated devices: More advanced types of recording devices that can include devices as small as your thumbnail, capable of recording hours upon hours of conversations. These devices can be designed to only transmit signals in short bursts, making them harder to detect with electronic bug sweeps.
3. Surveillance systems that are implemented remotely: Devices that make it possible to eavesdrop on a room without ever setting foot inside.
What you can do to protect yourself
In a previous post, I discussed how when we perform a bug sweep and that the odds of finding a hidden bug, camera or monitoring devices are low. We end up finding a bug or camera in about 16% of our sweeps conducted in homes and businesses. That sounds low but it’s actually very significant, especially if it is your home or office. Put another way, there is about a 1 in 6 chance. The finality and thoroughness of a sweep should provide you peace. If nothing is there, great. If something is found, get it out or leave it there in an effort to “smoke-out” the culprit.
If you approach us for a bug sweep service, you should have some sort of evidence or operative theory as to why you may be bugged. We get a lot of calls from people who are simply paranoid and need mental health services more than bug sweep services. My acid test for many of these potential clients is to ask the really hard questions, “Are you under the care of a doctor?” and “Do you think you should be under the care of a doctor?”
Finally, I’m of the opinion that any corporate organization of significant size that routinely handles sensitive or confidential information in a board room or other location, should periodically have the room swept for hidden video and audio eavesdropping devices in the interest of corporate security. Most corporations we service have us conduct sweeps usually every three months, but never longer than six months. This would also be specifically applicable before major confidential meetings. To such organizations, the cost of regularly scheduled bug sweeps is minimal compared to the alternative of leaked information to competitors.
Finally, remember all my previous admonitions on hiring a PI to conduct a sweep. The vast majority of PI’s don’t have a clue about how to conduct a sweep, have no training in detection, and no resources to purchase the very expensive electronic detection equipment. Beware of the PI with a magic wand who will simply waste your time and money. Call us in you need a referral in your area. Please visit our sister website totally dedicated to this subject matter at www.bugsweepteam.com.