Is this thing on? An introductory look at webcam surveillance

Webcam ( by Chris Gladis (CC BY 2.0)

Testing one, two, three- is this thing on?

I can recall quite vividly when I bought my first webcam back in the late-00s. My family had not long bought a shiny new laptop (before this we only had a bulky PC, assembled from different models) and we were all very excited to bask in its glory. Being like most teenage girls, I spent a lot of my time after school on Window’s Live Messenger program, MSN. The only problem was that our pristine Dell laptop did not have an inbuilt camera. How was I supposed to video chat with my friends? Take photos? Shock horror, I know. After finally convincing my parents that it was ‘safe’ and I would use it for good, I had it at long last. What could possibly be dangerous about a webcam?

The issue of webcam hacking and surveillance has been brought back into public discussion over the past week, following triple j’s ‘Hack’ (28 July 2016). The segment, in brief, speaks about how one man Matt, had a secretly recorded video of him in a private moment released into the public domain after his webcam was hacked unknowingly. How does this happen and how does it go unnoticed? With the increase in smart technology, it is important that internet users of all ages become aware of these invasions of privacy. For it is through these examples such as Matt’s and Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf‘s that we can take precautionary action to prevent these traumatising incidents from occurring again.

(Tweets embedded from my Twitter account- the difference a couple of weeks of study can make when you become more aware of privacy related issues)

Sangani’s (2013) journal article Uninvited Guests, takes a close look at the issue of ‘ratting’- an area of surveillance concerned with the hijacking of another’s webcam. As Sangani describes in his opening paragraph, targets for these online attacks are primarily women and are referred to as ‘slaves’ amongst the hacking community (2013, p. 47). He further goes on to discuss that not all victims are targeted for the purpose of financial gain, rather, victims have been preyed on for the voyeuristic thrill that webcam hacking entails. Scopophilia in regards to webcam hacking is not uncommon and appears to happen more often than you would think. Perhaps as technology advances, voyeuristic incidents are only set to increase. It is certainly a thought to consider. Although, this is not to say that we can’t take action and protect ourselves from potential attacks.

The act of voyeurism is exemplified to a great extent in Hitchcock’s films.


In a study undertaken by Rouse (2012), an online survey of 250 participants found the following information in regards to where individuals use their laptop most.

Out of those surveyed, 62% of participants said they use their laptop in the living room and 44% use their laptops in the bedroom (2012, p. 2). These are both quite intimate locations.

Rouse goes on to make some recommendations on how users can stay safe and help prevent webcam hacking and I think they’re great points to include here.

  • Covering the lens of your laptop camera – it has been recently discovered that Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg even does this
  • Stay informed of the potential risks regarding webcam hacking
  • Stay alert and pay attention to the camera light and keep strong anti-virus software protection
  • Close your laptop when you’re not using it

(Rouse 2012, p. 2)

Webcam hacking and the issues surrounding surveillance in smart devices can be confronting. However, if we stay informed and take careful measures to ensure our safety, we are creating awareness and preventing future attacks.

I look forward to blogging with you again next week 🙂

Until then,

– C


Rouse, RA 2012, Is someone watching you through your webcam (can be found here in .pdf)

Sangani, K 2013, ‘UNINVITED GUESTS’, Engineering & Technology (17509637), vol. 8, no. 10, p. 46.




12 thoughts on “Is this thing on? An introductory look at webcam surveillance

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post, Caitlyn! Actually, it’s got me feeling slightly paranoid! Haha. I’ve always been a bit wary of the built in webcam on my Mac, but after reading this post I think I’ll be reaching for the tape.. It’s just scary to think that someone could be watching. The fact that even Mark Zuckerberg covers his says something, I think! I like how you talked about ‘ratting’- this isn’t something I had heard about until now and it’s quite shocking to learn about.

    I enjoyed how you incorporated some statistics on where people use their laptops the most and how they can protect their privacy against webcam hacking as Rouse suggested. Definitely some things to take into consideration!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was such an interesting post, it really got me thinking! After seeing so much about people covering their webcams, and actually noticing more students doing it is class, this post was the final straw that’s pushed me over to reach for something to stick over my Mac webcam.
    I feel all the choices of media in this post worked well, I like the tweets you incorporated to show your change of opinion after researching more! Great use of research and statistics. Really great structure to the post too, overall great blog post. I look forward to seeing your future posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Caitlyn,

    What an insightful and interesting post! I found your perspectives web cameras very interesting and I definitely won’t think of them the same! The ability to grab the attention of the reader by thought provocation and the incorporation of multimedia which was well chosen made this post very easy and enjoyable to read. I definitely feel like the effort and thought put into this post is something to aspire to.

    Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Caitlyn! This is a great post and I feel kind of scared now… The entire time I was reading this article, I kept looking at my camera on my MacBook Air thinking, “what if someone is watching me?”

    I think you did a great job at embedding tweets as well as using active links. These sites and articles have acted as some great inspiration for my own blog post. It was also great to see you use statistics to back up what you were saying.

    I thought your reference to Hitchcock was great – it just shows that watching someone through a camera is part of the digital evolution. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, great title – super powerful. I like the tone you have written you blog in as well as used examples from your life. Furthermore, I like how you used an example in order to help get your point across. I can personally say that after hearing what Matt has to say, I too covered my webcam. Great use of embedded Tweets and Vimeo. Moreover, I like how you provide readers with information / recommendations how to stay safe and prevent webcam hacking.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Caitlyn!
    Loving your opening sentence, really drew me in to your work. I agree with the other comments, and really enjoy how you have embedded tweets into your post, as well as providing additional content as well as a video is quite unique and not something I’ve seen yet.

    I think another fun recommendation is to move your screen away from you when you’re not using it, or else i know that the rest of my family has incorporated masking tape across the camera.

    Such great advice on how to stay safe, avoid hacking and avoid bring watched…

    Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s