Spy camera

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A spy camera is device that allows the user to capture secret video footage. Spy cameras are disguised as ordinary objects one might find in areas of their home or business, such as a smoke detector, tissue box, teddy bear or digital clock. The camera hidden inside one of these everyday items is capable of capturing video footage of activity that occurs in front of it, without alerting the target person that they are being recorded. Spy cameras are known under different names like spy cam, hidden camera or to a lesser degree nanny camera.

'Types of disguises they come in'[edit]

There are several spy camera disguises that are designed for use in any number of locations. You may find that some are more flexible than others allowing them to be used without suspicion in more than a few different places. Pinhole lens cameras can be as small as 4cm wide with the ability to produce detailed and clear images, particularly during the day.

Body Worn Spy Cameras[edit]

These cameras are defined as portable hidden video recording devices that can be worn or carried around by a person to secretly record footage of an activity occurring nearby.

Popular Body Worn Spy Camera Disguises:

Pen Watch Tie Flash Drive
Button Hat Glasses Key chain
Flash Light Coffee Mug Blue Tooth Necklace
Lighter MP3 Player Cell Phone Satchel
808 Spy Keychain Camera

Spy Cameras for the Home[edit]

Also known as nanny cameras these devices are hidden in common everyday household objects.

Popular Home Spy Camera Disguises:

iPod Docking Station Digital Clock Teddy Bear Tissue Box
Smoke Detector Air Purifier DVD Player Boom Box / Radio
Picture Frame Air Freshener Fan DVD Case
Wall Decor Cookie Jar CO Detector Motion Sensor
Plant Lamp TV Remote Telephone
AC Adapter Book Router Wall Outlet

Spy Cameras for Businesses[edit]

Generally hidden in objects you might find in an office or store these cameras allow business owners and employees to capture secret video surveillance of their coworkers and customers.

Popular Business Spy Camera Disguises:

Exit Sign Clock Emergency Light Smoke Detector
CO Detector AC Adapter Motion Sensor Book
Plant Telephone Wall Outlet Wall Decor
Tissue Box Coffee Mug Air Freshener

Outdoor Spy Cameras[edit]

Disguised in objects you might find outdoors these cameras are as a rule weatherproof so they can be left outside in all weather conditions.

Popular Outdoor Spy Camera Disguises:

Bird House Electric Box Mail Box Flood Light
Rock Hose Reel

Car Spy Cameras[edit]

While there are a number of body worn, home, business and outdoor spy cams that can be used as surveillance for vehicles there are a few that are specifically designed for this purpose.

Popular Outdoor Spy Camera Disguises:

Rear View Mirror GPS Mount Car Adapter Key Chain

DIY Spy Cameras[edit]

There are many small spy cameras that are designed discreetly enough that they can be used for one to make their own spy cam. These spy cams are not disguised but are generally very small or very plain in appearance so that they can be easily hidden in an object the user may have readily available at home.

Popular DIY Spy Cameras:

Cam Stick Wireless Mini Cam Black Box Cam Button/Screw Cam DVR Kit

Spy Cameras and the Law in the United States of America[edit]

US Federal Law[edit]

In general it is legal in the United States to record video from a hidden camera in a public area without the consent of the person you are recording. Keep in mind however video recording and audio recording are very different in terms of law. Federal laws have been put in place regarding the use of audio recording from a hidden device. Most U.S. spy cam manufacturers do not manufacture spy cams with audio recording capability in compliance with federal laws.[1]

The United States also prohibits the use of video or audio recording with the purpose of black mail or malicious intent.


Most states have specific laws regarding the use of hidden video surveillance in areas one can assume are private. In many states recording hidden video in areas such as a bathroom, dressing room or hotel room is illegal and criminally punishable. Under several state laws spy cams are illegal to use in any area where one has a reasonable expectation of privacy. While few states may not specifically govern the use of spy cams in private areas, one should not assume legality as the use of a hidden video recording device in such areas may still be governed and criminally punishable under other privacy laws specific to that state.

Hidden camera recording of private areas on Federal property (including Federal Parks and Prisons) is still illegal under the Federal video Voyeurism Protection Act of 2004 regardless of state laws.[2]

State Law[edit]

Each state has the right to institute their own laws and many have done so in effort to regulate the use of hidden video cameras. While some states may or may not have laws in place, Federal law trumps state law when it comes to criminal activity. Your rights under your state’s law are waived if you are committing a crime governed by federal law.[3]
Some states may allow you to record video and/or audio with one party consent while others require the consent of both parties. Some states may not allow hidden recording at all.

Spy Cameras and the Law in the United Kingdom[edit]

The use of covert cameras is generally permitted under UK jurisdiction, if used in a legal manner and towards legitimate ends. Individuals may use covert surveillance in their own home to spy on others, in the workplace to monitor employees, outside of a domestic or commercial property for security purposes, and in most security situations where there is a just need to do so. There are a number of laws under the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Acts that should be considered when using a spy camera.

UK Privacy Policies[edit]

The primary consideration in whether the use of a spy camera is ethical or not is privacy. In the United Kingdom, the use of a surveillance camera system must take into account its effect on individuals and their privacy, with regular reviews to ensure its use remains justified. In UK law, it is illegal to use any kind of surveillance in areas where individuals would expect privacy, such as in changing rooms, locker rooms, or toilets, unless in exceptional circumstances where there is a legal issue and this action has been approved by the police. In this case, the operator should make extra effort to ensure that individuals are aware that cameras are in use.

Legal Requirements of Spy Camera Use[edit]

In public, any CCTV deployed that records sound must be accompanied by a clear sign to inform that CCTV is in operation. All public CCTV cameras used by a business should be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office. Conversations between members of the public should not be recorded on CCTV, except for legitimate legal purposes. In any type of covert surveillance, footage should only be used for the purpose for which it has been taken, which must be a legitimate security reason. The person in possession of the footage is responsible for its use, and must only retain footage for as long as it is reasonably needed. It is not permitted to release footage to third parties except when there is a legal necessity.

Illegal Use of Spy Cameras[edit]

It is illegal under UK law to deploy covert cameras in areas where individuals would have an expectation of privacy, such as bathrooms, changing rooms and locker rooms, or plant a hidden camera in someone else’s home, or an area someone else owns. It is also illegal to share images with third parties or the media without a granted legal cause to do so. Recording conversations between members of the public on CCTV is not permitted, excluding in these circumstances. It is illegal to use spy cameras or footage from a spy camera for any illegitimate or illegal cause.